Mayor and Sheriff indicate progress in talks over housing state inmates

Mayor and Sheriff indicate progress in talks over housing state inmates
Published: Oct. 9, 2015 at 8:23 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 9, 2015 at 10:22 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The mayor and the sheriff went before a federal judge today in an effort to settle a long simmering feud over prison issues.

In spite of a new jail, there is still over-crowding. A problem which some say could be easily remedied.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman went in the front door of federal court, the mayor through the back, and when the sheriff emerged he offered few specifics.

"We just talked about some solutions, we're going to continue the conversation," Gusman said.

They met with Judge Lance Africk along with the head of the state prison system for nearly an hour and a half, primarily about the recent shipment of 180 Orleans pre-trial detainees to jails in East Carrol, and Franklin parishes, some over 200 miles away.

"That's been a big inconvenience for people who represent people, you can't talk to them before," said Fox 8 legal analyst Joseph Raspanti.

The mayor issued a statement saying that transferring those inmates placed a burden on the criminal justice system.  He added that it is unnecessary because there's enough room in the temporary detention center, but the temporary facilities are now being torn down. Now, for the first time in decades, there are no Orleans prisoners under the big top.

At the center of this is whether or not the city needs another new jail. Sheriff Gusman says it does. The mayor says he's not so sure.

That's because the mayor says the sheriff is housing too many state inmates. As of last week, the New Orleans jail housed 334 state inmates.

"We have a facility that we think will house all of the needs that the city is responsible for," Landrieu said. "And if we take prisoners from across the state and want to house them ... That's a different story."

This afternoon, the mayor's office came out with a statement saying removing those inmates would eliminate the need to build a third jail and save the city tens of millions of dollars. It's a big issue with no resolution.

"No.  We're just going to continue the discussion," Gusman said.

The mayor closed his statement by saying he believes the discussions are on the right path.

There's been a lot of discussion about the closure of the so-called 'docks' prisoner transfer facility. Today, Judge Africk appointed criminal court Judge Franz Zibilich to participate in a committee to consider proper procedures for replacing that facility.

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