A new building is the easy part. That’s one of the takeaways from the most recent report of the independent monitor overseeing reforms of the Orleans Parish Prison.
The new jail — including, in characteristic fashion in New Orleans, a particularly elaborate industrial kitchen to feed the inmates — is now set to open in April, but there remain tough issues to resolve, including the treatment of the mentally ill and juvenile detainees, the report by Susan McCampbell told the federal court.
The differences over management and costs of the new facility, built by hurricane recovery funds, continue between Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
What is not in question for anybody is the harsh statement of the reality of the old jail: a dangerous place, still plagued by inmates’ assaults on each other and on jail staff, attempted suicides and allegations of sexual assault, the report said.
Working through these issues will take time, but we continue to be optimistic that a new jail is a chance to turn the page on the past. No one, we’re sure, would be happier to see the federal court out of the jail oversight business than U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.
It will take real progress to make that happy day arrive.