Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will testify in the Orleans Parish Prison consent decree hearing Thursday at 8:30 a.m., the last witness for this hearing, per an agreement attorneys and Judge Lance Africk reached this afternoon to expedite the proceeding. Also, the plaintiffs' have shortened their list of witnesses and will be finished presenting their case this afternoon. The city's only witness, Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, testified earlier today.
Afternoon testimony on day three included OPP inmate Aaron Steel, who has been in the jail since 2011 awaiting trial on a drug charge. Steel testified that he is chronically mentally ill. He said he is schizophrenic and has suffered from depression. He said that when he first entered the jail, he told doctors that he was suicidal and was placed on a suicide watch tier. On his first day, he said, he was alone in his cell, but "The next day, they were piling people up into that cell." Despite taking medication to treat his depression, Steel said OPP doctors did not prescribe him any antidepressants.
After five days, he said he told doctors he was no longer suicidal, only to get out of the cell. He was moved onto the psychiatric tier at Templeman V, which he described as "inhumane and barbaric." Steel described one incident there where he was attacked by another inmate with a 6-inch knife and another bludgeoned him with an object, causing injury, all as deputies were watching from just outside the tier. He said it took more than 10 minutes for deputies to intervene. He was eventually hospitalized.
"I went to University Hospital and received 8 staples in my head."
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Steel also testified that health care was inadequate even on the medical tier at the Old Parish Prison facility. He testified that while he was there, an inmate suffered a seizure. It took Steel and several other inmates 20 minutes to get a deputy's attention by banging on a door.
During cross-examination, Gusman's attorney Freeman Matthews asked how Steel, who did not have a watch or access to a clock, how he could be so confident about those slow response times.
"I can estimate time," he said.
Later, psychiatrist Daphne Glindmeyer testified that OPP's policy distributing one to two weeks' worth of medication to inmates at a time — called "keep on person" — puts inmates at risk. Glindmeyer used, as an example, one inmate medical record, which showed the inmate reported trying to commit suicide. The inmate told medical staff he took 58 unknown pills he obtained from his cell mate, who was a keep on person patient.
"It's troubling he had access to that many pills," Glindmeyer said. Judge Lance Africk asked what steps jails can take to avoid such abuse.
"Not have keep on person," Glindmeyer replied.
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