The New Orleans City Council closed its Dec. 5 regular meeting with an old topic — a discussion of the size of Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). This time the impetus was Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman's proposed expansion of the jail.
The council passed a motion that will begin discussion in the City Planning Commission of whether the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office can keep open Templeman V — a temporary detention center —while it builds its new 1,438-bed facility.
The motion says Templeman V must close within 18 months of the end of construction of the new facility, and it will accommodate inmates with mental health and other medical needs. However, the new facility won't have room to house those inmates, or inmates who have to remain separated from other inmates. Gusman proposes a stopgap for housing those particular inmates.
According to the council motion, Templeman V, along with two other small (and temporary) facilities in the detention campus will be able to house 500 inmates. The motion also puts a cap on the jail's total beds, reading, "In no event shall the total number of inmates housed outside the 1,438-bed facility exceed 500."
This would put the population of OPP closer to 2,000 (temporarily) than the 1,438 beds that were agreed upon — and written into city ordinance — in 2011, when the council authorized construction of a new prison. That lower number was recommended by a 2010 task force comprised of members of the New Orleans criminal justice community.
The motion to keep Templeman open first passed the City Council's Criminal Justice Committee on Dec. 3. District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell introduced the motion at Mayor Mitch Landrieu's request.