An Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy could face disciplinary action for allegedly striking an inmate in the face at the Orleans Parish Prison’s troubled juvenile tier, authorities said Wednesday.
“Administrative actions” are pending against the deputy, James Henry, who encountered the inmate sometime last weekend, said Philip Stelly, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
Stelly said he did not know what day the incident occurred and also could not say whether the deputy has been suspended or is still assigned to active duty.
According to a brief statement issued Wednesday by the Sheriff’s Office, the inmate, whose name and age were not released, refused an order to go into his cell.
“Instead, the inmate approached Deputy James Henry, who pushed the inmate away to create distance,” the statement said. “The inmate approached a second time and was rebuffed with a single blow to the facial area.”
Other deputies intervened, Stelly said, and escorted the inmate to the medical clinic for an evaluation. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the inmate did not suffer any injuries in the incident.
Stelly said he could not say whether the incident was captured on video surveillance.
The incident is said to have occurred within the jail’s Conchetta facility on Tulane Avenue, where juvenile defendants being prosecuted as adults await trial.
City leaders have increasingly questioned whether juveniles should continue to be housed within those confines, given the violent history of Orleans Parish Prison that led to a federal consent decree mandating a series of court-ordered reforms that are being overseen by a federal judge.
The consent decree is intended to reverse conditions at OPP deemed unconstitutionally oppressive by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.
Late last year, the New Orleans City Council, by a 4--3 vote, passed a resolution urging the city and Sheriff Marlin Gusman to take “any and all necessary steps” to remove youths from OPP and house them at the city’s Youth Study Center, which houses youths being prosecuted as juveniles.
The resolution was introduced by Councilman Jason Williams, who said the “removal of youth from Orleans Parish Prison is imperative.”
The Conchetta facility at OPP has been the site of several inmate-on-inmate attacks in recent months. The new allegation that a deputy may have used excessive force against a youthful detainee could fuel concerns about the well-being of juveniles within the facility.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.