During last week's budget hearing with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry called for an end to the per-inmate daily reimbursement structure, or per diem, the city uses to fund jails run by the sheriff's office. Under the current system, the city pays Gusman's office $22 per inmate per day of incarceration.
Gusman, whose office additionally receives a $26 daily reimbursement from the state for state prisoners, says the city's per diem should be raised. However, Guidry contended that when costs for inmate medical care are added, the city's actual per diem rate is closer to $34, $8 more than the state's rate.
"But we shouldn't have a per diem," Guidry said, drawing applause from a group of audience members holding "no per diem" signs. "This is a perverse incentive to keep people in jail." Guidry added she does not believe the sheriff's office keeps people in jail longer than necessary, but the very existence of such an "incentive" demands that it be removed.
Gusman and City Budget Director Cary Grant said they are open to changing the system and moving the city's jails to a normal, predetermined budget, as is the case for most city-funded departments. Guidry demanded that the city "not let another year go by" without changing the sheriff's funding structure, but Grant said making the change would be "more complicated than it sounds."
"OK, how many people are working on it now?" Guidry asked, to which Grant replied, "Not as many as there should be." — Maldonado