My administration’s goal is to improve public safety while ensuring that we provide alternatives to incarceration and operate in the most cost-effective manner possible.
The mayor’s request to have all state prisoners removed from the custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is misguided and, if implemented, would have adverse effects on public safety and an immediate increase in costs.
The parish jail currently houses less than 350 state-sentenced inmates, including about 150 inmates in the Southeast Regional Re-Entry Program, which is fully funded by a state grant plus housing costs.
Eliminating a well-established and successful re-entry program increases the likelihood that — without the program — released inmates would re-offend, thereby creating and prolonging a cycle of recidivism and adding to the cost of re-arrest, prosecution and ultimately re-incarceration. The program actually saves the city more than $1 million annually.
The Transitional Work Program provides employment to 70 offenders while they are completing their sentences. It is proven that employment prior to release substantially reduces the likelihood of recidivism.
Should inmates be eliminated from the kitchen staff, the average meal cost would increase from less than a dollar per meal to more than $1.75 per meal. Moreover, our food service vendor would be forced to hire civilians at an estimated cost to city taxpayers in excess of $2.03 million.
Moreover, the 55 inmates who are at the heart of our community service program assist the Coroner’s Office and other public agencies, saving the salary and benefits for these positions. Community service workers pick up trash after football games. They are part of cleanup crews after Mardi Gras parades and they set up/break down tents for numerous community organizations, helping to lower their costs.
The Sheriff’s Office is fully modernizing its operations. Within the next 60 days, deputies will begin training on the operation of our new inmate housing facility, which will allow the Sheriff’s Office to deploy staff in a more efficient manner. We will close the outdated buildings that currently house inmates.
Every week, sentenced inmates are transferred to the State Department of Corrections by the Sheriff’s Office. This year alone we have transferred 1,174. However, eliminating all state inmates, as proposed by the mayor, would be a huge step backwards for this community.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul at the expense of good public policy is foolish. It would be folly to eliminate such cost-effective programs and ask taxpayers to pick up the tab.
At the Sheriff’s Office, we’re focused on solving problems, not creating new ones.
Marlin N. Gusman
Orleans Parish sheriff