Months after announcing that his deputies would no longer monitor pretrial defendants ordered to wear electronic ankle bracelets, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman said Monday that his office plans to hand the program over to city officials by mid-October.
Gusman last year told the City Council he intended to pull out of the program in January, citing repeated delays in payments from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and the need to devote as many of his office’s resources as possible to staffing a new $150 million jail.
He later agreed to continue operating the program for several more months.
The original announcement followed a series of controversies involving the city-funded monitoring program, including a high-profile murder blamed on a youth wearing an ankle bracelet and a critical report by New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux.
Still, the City Council has lauded the public-safety benefits of the program, especially at a time when the Landrieu administration has sought to stem New Orleans’ incarceration rate and reduce the inmate population at Orleans Parish Prison.
Even after saying he wanted out of electronic monitoring, the sheriff agreed to continue his agency’s involvement as city leaders decided whether to hire a third-party vendor to administer the $400,000-a-year program or allocate the task to the understaffed New Orleans Police Department.
Gusman, in a statement released Monday, said the city hasn’t paid his office since Jan. 1 “for any expenses associated with the operation of the program,” including the salaries of deputies assigned to track the pre-trial defendants being monitored. The program includes about 55 defendants at this time.
“It’s kind of like we’re cutting our losses,” said Amy Barrios, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. “(City officials) just haven’t made any forward progress on what to do.”
Brad Howard, a City Hall spokesman, said city officials have repeatedly sent a cooperative endeavor agreement governing operation of the program to the sheriff for his signature but have “yet to receive feedback.”
“The city cannot reimburse the Sheriff’s Office for the program without a legal agreement in place to do so,” Howard said.
Over the past several months, deputies have worked alongside NOPD employees who are assisting with the electronic monitoring, said Marc Ehrhardt, another Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
As of Oct. 17, however, deputies no longer will be involved in the program but will be “available to assist the New Orleans Police Department in ensuring a smooth transition,” Gusman said in his statement. “The (Sheriff’s Office) is concentrating its efforts on holding behind bars those who truly need to be there and focusing on its primary mission of providing for the care, custody and control of inmates.”
It remains unclear whether the NOPD will take over the monitoring duties on a permanent basis.
“The city is still working with criminal justice agencies to develop a long-term plan for our electronic monitoring program,” Howard said.
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