Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman no longer wants a temporary $5 to $6 increase to the $22 rate the city pays for each Orleans Parish Prison inmate per day. Gusman requested the increase late last year, reopening the federal lawsuit (Hamilton v. Morial, originally opened as Hamilton v. Schiro in 1969) that resulted in the establishment of the per diem structure and, later in 2003, the current rate.
Gusman wanted the increase set only until another lawsuit, Jones v. Gusman, could be settled with a federal consent decree and an agreement on how to pay for the terms of the consent decree. While the funding issue in Jones isn't scheduled for a court hearing until late May, a hearing to determine whether the consent decree is fair and necessary is set for April 1. In today's pleading, the sheriff's office says the March 20 hearing on the per diem adjustment falls too close to the consent decree trial for attorneys to adequately prepare for both cases.
Gusman's requests for additional funding to pay for improvements have run from about $15 million to $23 million above its current general fund allocation of $22 million. City Hall, already struggling with the $50 million-plus costs of the New Orleans Police Department consent decree, has stridently opposed any funding increase for the jail, repeatedly noting Gusman's refusal to disclose budget records (including failing to meet court deadlines for budget information disclosure) along with a number of questionable expenditures. The city has even gone so far as suggesting federal receivership for the sheriff's office.
The U.S. Department of Justice, a plaintiff in Jones, however, argues that the city, which is responsible for the jail under state law, must ensure that it is compliant with the U.S. Constitution regardless of costs.