The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit against Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, claiming the sheriff has ignored a public-records request the group filed in July.
The ACLU asked the Sheriff’s Office to produce records showing the number of “acutely mentally ill inmates” in Gusman’s custody in light of the sheriff’s long-running campaign bid to build another multimillion-dollar jail facility to accommodate special needs inmates.
The organization has spoken out against Gusman’s proposal, saying the city instead should further its efforts to reduce the local jail’s population.
“Despite his repeated insistence that he needs more space for mentally ill inmates, he has never documented the numbers of those inmates,” Marjorie Esman, ACLU Louisiana’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “The public has a right to know whether this is a real need based on medical needs of the prison population, and the sheriff should release that information without being sued.”
A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new 1,438-bed jail that Gusman opened Monday was not designed to house severely mentally ill inmates. At present, those inmates are assigned to a state prison in St. Gabriel, where they’re receiving specialized treatment.
The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
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