With future leadership up in air, more instances of violence reported at Orleans jail _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Sheriff Marlin Gusman walks to the podium before a news conference last week.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating two new cases of jailhouse violence, including one that sent a deputy to the hospital over the weekend.

The inquiries come as Sheriff Marlin Gusman prepares to return to federal court this week for the resumption of a hearing that will determine whether he retains control of the city’s jail.

Corrections experts have charged that inmate violence is out of control at the Orleans Justice Center and that the sheriff lacks the leadership skills to remedy the problems there. The sheriff has pushed back against those claims, blaming the jail’s disarray on understaffing and a lack of city funding.

The most recent incident happened Saturday and involved an inmate considered to be among the most unruly in the jail. The inmate, Dajuan Alridge, 23, was convicted last year of fatally stabbing a teenager.

Alridge was returning to his cell after an evaluation in the jail’s medical clinic when he punched a deputy in the face, said Amy Barrios, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. Two additional guards responded and eventually subdued the inmate.

One of the responding deputies was taken to the hospital as a precaution but was quickly released, Barrios said. The deputy who was punched in the face declined medical treatment and remained at work.

“There were no serious injuries,” Barrios said.

Alridge is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for the 2009 murder of 15-year-old James McKenzie, who was stabbed dozens of times. Prosecutors intend to present testimony at that hearing about his conduct behind bars.

Alridge has not yet been rebooked in the Saturday incident. Barrios said the investigation is being led by the Sheriff’s Office’s Investigative Services Bureau.

The second case involves another inmate frequently accused of misconduct inside the jail. Jason Johnson, 27, was rebooked on two counts of battery of a correctional officer.

According to court documents, Johnson was being housed on the jail’s disciplinary tier earlier this month when he began throwing an “unknown clear liquid” out of his cell. The liquid hit a nurse and a deputy, the documents say.

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Johnson with sexual battery in a January incident involving another male inmate. The victim in that case told authorities Johnson forced him to perform oral sex and also raped him. The inmate said Johnson threatened to have his friends “jump” him if he didn’t comply, according to an application for a search warrant.

Gusman has said jailhouse violence is inevitable to an extent, noting that the jail population includes many of the most violent people in New Orleans.

The U.S. Justice Department and the MacArthur Justice Center, a civil rights law firm representing the city’s inmates, disagree and blame many of the problems on Gusman’s management. They have asked U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to appoint an outside administrator, known as a receiver, to manage the jail.

Africk will continue hearing evidence Friday morning. It’s unclear when he will rule on the receivership request.

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.