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Monday, October 8, 2012

Federal judge orders draft consent decree for Sheriff's Office

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 11:54 AM


U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk on Friday ordered Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the U.S. Department of Justice submit a "proposed interim consent judgment," according to court documents.

The proposal, which will be submitted as part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the jail, will be due to the court by October 15. As we reported last spring, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit on behalf of all Orleans Parish Prison inmates in April:

The alleged details of daily life in OPP — including charges of dangerously overfilled cells, inadequate medical care and a culture of indifference to the inmates' welfare on the part of guards, supervisors, wardens, all the way up to Gusman himself — have inundated SPLC's office. On an average day, OPP is home to more than 3,200 inmates, or the equivalent of nearly 1 percent of New Orleans' total population.

In an interview for that story, SPLC attorney Katie Schwartzmann said the evidence against the Sheriff's Office was "overwhelming."

Attached to the 38-page lawsuit are 19 affidavits signed by current or former inmates, including 10 named plaintiffs. The witnesses paint a picture of an institution where brutal violence is the norm, with little intervention from guards, and where medical attention arrives late if at all.

The federal government has been negotiating an agreement with the Sheriff's Office for more than a year, following several years of federal scrutiny. Last month, Justice intervened in the lawsuit. Africk has also granted a request from Gusman that the city of New Orleans — which controls the the sheriff's budget — be named as a third-party defendant.

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