Justice Department Reaches Settlement to Ensure Independent Oversight and Operations of Orleans Parish Jail
Today, the Justice Department, prisoner class and city of New Orleans reached a settlement with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to resolve the department’s motion for contempt alleging the sheriff’s non-compliance with a consent judgment governing conditions of confinement at the Orleans Parish Jail in New Orleans. In lieu of a receiver, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana issued an order approving the parties’ agreement to have the court appoint an independent jail compliance director with the final authority to operate the jail so that it achieves timely and substantial compliance with the consent judgment.
“The appointment of an independent and experienced corrections professional as compliance director will enable the jail to implement long overdue reforms to protect the rights and safety of prisoners,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue our steadfast efforts to ensure that all of the men and women serving prison sentences in Orleans Parish Jail receive the full protections that our Constitution guarantees.”
“The agreement to appoint a compliance director for the Orleans Parish Jail will facilitate the structural and systemic changes needed to achieve compliance with the consent judgment, while the sheriff’s continued participation in jail administration will ensure that improvements are sustainable at the end of the compliance director’s tenure,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
In a motion filed on April 25, 2016, the department requested that the court appoint a receiver with full authority to administer operations of the jail. In today’s order, the court found the sheriff in non-compliance with the consent judgment’s provisions on prisoner supervision, suicide prevention, use of force, incident reporting and tracking, prisoner grievances, investigations, classification, youthful prisoners and sanitation and environmental health. The court will appoint an independent compliance director, who will be charged with administering the day-to-day operations of the jail and will work closely with Sheriff Gusman regarding decisions and operations that materially impact compliance with the consent judgment. The sheriff will select a candidate for independent compliance director from nominees proposed by the department, prisoner class and the city. The court has the ultimate authority for appointment of the director.
The compliance director’s responsibilities will include formulating a remedial action plan to produce sustainable compliance with the consent judgment within his or her first year at the jail. The compliance director will be tasked with developing strategies to decrease jail violence; implementing sustainable hiring measures; ensuring adequate staff training, supervision and discipline; reducing incidents of prisoner self-harm and suicide and decreasing reliance on prisoner lockdown or cell confinement. In order to address staffing problems and foster a professional culture, the compliance director will have the authority to hire, fire and reassign jail staff. In addition, the compliance director will be responsible for formulating and presenting the jail budget to the city council and for administering payments, authorizing procurement and entering into contracts for jail operations, with oversight by the city.
The compliance director’s authority will continue until the court determines that sustained and sustainable material progress with consent judgment compliance is achieved, including development and implementation of required policies, adequate staff training and development of a quality assurance system to effectively evaluate whether staff are implementing the policies in practice and correct their conduct when they do not. More information on the compliance director position can be found in the job posting attached and applications for the job can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This settlement follows a six-day evidentiary hearing, which had not concluded, and avoids further delay from extended litigation and appeals.
This case was initiated as a private prisoner class action filed in 2012. The department intervened pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which authorizes the department to seek a remedy for a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the constitutional rights of persons confined in a jail, prison or other correctional facility. The department’s motion was filed jointly with the plaintiff class, represented by the MacArthur Justice Center.
For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt.