Attorneys for Sheriff Marlin Gusman asked a federal judge this week to order Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration to “fully fund” the operations of the Orleans Parish Prison. They said the city has shirked its duty under state law to pay for inmate care and the salaries of deputies.
The city’s $30 million allocation to the Sheriff’s Office for 2015 is “woefully inadequate,” the attorneys wrote in court filings. The Sheriff’s Office had requested more than $62 million from the city to cover a court-ordered plan for jail reform, the so-called consent decree that calls for sweeping and expensive changes at the lockup.
“The current manner and amount of funding from the city leaves the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office unable to meet its monthly obligations necessary to operate the jail facilities,” the sheriff’s attorneys wrote. “Despite repeated requests to address critical funding shortfalls, the city continues to delay and equivocate, necessitating urgent email exchanges and telephone calls every month.”
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk agreed to hear arguments from Sheriff’s Office and city lawyers Thursday during a regularly scheduled court hearing on the consent decree, a settlement that stemmed from a class-action lawsuit brought by inmates over the jail’s violent and unsanitary conditions.
In their court filings, Gusman’s attorneys pushed back against city officials who last week asked Africk to terminate the jail’s newly signed contract with Correct Care Solutions, a company hired to provide medical and mental health services at the jail for the next five years. The sheriff’s lawyers said the Sheriff’s Office is in default on the $83 million contract because city officials have declined to pay the invoices.
“The city’s refusal to fund Correct Care has put the contract in jeopardy,” the attorneys said.
City Attorney Sharonda Williams has argued the contract is void because state law grants only the city — not the Sheriff’s Office — authority to enter into such a contract.
Williams has said the contract was negotiated behind closed doors without the input of city officials, who have long complained about Gusman’s spending decisions at the jail.
A Landrieu spokesman declined to comment on the sheriff’s filings.
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