Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jail reform group collects more than 2,000 signatures on petition demanding change at OPP

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 3:37 PM

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With just two days to go before City Council votes on the 2012 budget, the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition today delivered a petition to City Hall demanding that the city reject Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman's budget allocation.

The group, which claims to have collected more than 2,200 signatures on the petition, is asking Council to end OPSO's current per diem funding formula, where the sheriff is reimbursed $22 per inmate per day of incarceration. The petition also calls for city government to guarantee that the new, currently under construction OPP facility be limited to a 1,438 inmate capacity.

The group delivered the petitions to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office, where it was accepted by a staff member; and the City Council office, where it was accepted by Deborah Langhoff, Councilwoman Susan Guidry's chief of staff. During this year's budget hearings, Guidry was highly critical of Gusman's per diem funding, recommending an immediate shift to a pre-set annual operating budget for the sheriff's office.

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At a press conference outside the building, Norris Henderson, executive director of the group Voice of the Ex-Offender (a member organization in OPPRC's coalition) said the per diem system incentivizes unnecessarily long jail stays for inmates.

Norris Henderson delivers the petition, signed by 2,200 people according to OPPRC, to City Council
  • Norris Henderson delivers the petition, signed by 2,200 people according to OPPRC, to City Council

Henderson pointed to a recent study by jail expert James Austin, who found that even as arrests in the city decreased by 28 percent in the first half of the year, OPP inmate numbers were fairly static, and average stays in the jail had gone up by 10 days per inmate.

"We do not want a city where the jail is being run like a hotel, where the sheriff is being paid per day per person," Henderson said.

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