Inmates from Plaquemines Parish who have been housed in Orleans Parish Prison in recent years have been relocated to a new $120 million detention center in Plaquemines, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman said Saturday.
Plaquemines Parish deputies transported about 80 inmates from the Orleans Temporary Detention Center to the Plaquemines Parish Detention Center on Thursday.
After more than three years of construction, the new 871-bed facility opened Wednesday in Pointe a la Hache.
The Orleans Sheriff’s Office had agreed to house the inmates while the Plaquemines Sheriff’s Office completed its facility as part of an agreement with FEMA, nearly a decade after Hurricane Katrina flooded the old Plaquemines jail. The new jail was built 19 feet above the ground to satisfy federal flood zone rules.
“The departure of the Plaquemines Parish inmates is another sign of progress in our community’s recovery from Katrina,” Gusman said Saturday in a news release. “The partnership between FEMA, the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office demonstrates how we can work together to improve public safety in our region.”
The Plaquemines inmates had been held in Orleans Parish since 2008, but Gusman recently came under pressure to move them out of New Orleans as he struggled to implement a series of jail reforms mandated by a consent decree issued in federal court.
Among New Orleans city leaders, City Council President Stacy Head had been one of the most vocal proponents of moving the Plaquemines Parish inmates to free up as many resources as possible while the New Orleans facilities are under federal oversight.
That’s because, under state law, New Orleans must pay for care of inmates.
While Plaquemines Parish had paid Gusman to house its inmates, Head said research by New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux suggested that the rate wasn’t high enough to cover the city’s costs. According to Head, it was unconscionable for New Orleans to subsidize another parish’s inmates for that long.
In December, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Lonnie Greco told Gusman the inmates would be relocated by Feb. 15.
The new Plaquemines Parish Detention Center includes biometric locks on certain doors and a professional-grade basketball court. Officials have expressed concern, however, about the jail’s size, as only 100 of the 871 beds were slated to be occupied with the facility’s opening.