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Gusman: city funding is the problem 

Sheriff opposes OPP takeover

  Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman last week formally opposed New Orleans city government's motion — filed this month — to appoint a federal receiver to take over the operations of Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), arguing it is not inadequate management but decades of inadequate city funding that led to the jail's current state.

  "On Sunday, April 7 The Times-Picayune ran a front-page story asking the rhetorical question, 'Sheriff Marlin Gusman — worst jailer? Or — is he just burdened with the worst jail?' As will be clearly proven below, the answer to that question is that he is burdened with the worst jail," reads the opening paragraph of Gusman's motion in opposition to the city's request.

  The city pays the sheriff's office $22.39 per inmate per day to fund operations of the jail. According to Gusman's filing, that is 15 cents less than the $22.54 a city-commissioned expert report recommended in 1990.

  "The city cannot continue to balance its budget on the back of the Sheriff and the United States Constitution," the filing says. "Today, OPP faces the inevitable result of more than thirty years' neglect by the city of the city's correctional operations and facilities and its obligation to that system."

  Mayor Mitch Landrieu believes the tens of millions of dollars in potential yearly expenses associated with the proposed consent decree would force the city to layoff or furlough hundreds of essential employees. The city believes the decree is overly broad but that Gusman is unfit to run the jail. Gusman, meanwhile, is in favor of the consent decree. But he does not concede that conditions are unconstitutional — the U.S. Department of Justice's rationale for attempting to impose the consent agreement.

  U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk is weighing whether to accept the consent decree, following a weeklong fairness hearing early this month. Two more hearings on the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office's budget and funding for the consent decree have been set for May 28 and July 1. — Charles Maldonado

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