The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office missed a July target date to bring the last of hundreds of city inmates back from far-flung parishes to the local jail, but the jail's court-appointed administrator says he still hopes to return them to New Orleans soon.
For months, jail administrator Gary Maynard and Sheriff Marlin Gusman have been touting a plan to return to the city all the inmates who have been kept in distant locales like East Carroll Parish because of staffing shortages. As late as June, Maynard said he hoped to have them all back by July.
But nearly 200 inmates are still being housed in two facilities hours away from New Orleans, a distance that cuts them off from family members and defense attorneys.
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In an interview this past week, Maynard said deputy turnover prevented him from bringing those inmates back as soon as he would have liked. However, he hopes to have them returned to the city this week or next.
“Our turnover was taking some of the deputies away that we had recruited. We just didn’t meet the numbers that we thought we would at that particular time,” Maynard said.
As of Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office had 1,195 inmates in custody at the Orleans Justice Center, the gleaming new jail that opened in 2015 near the Pontchartrain Expressway. Sixty-four more were being held at the booking center and another 82 inmates were housed in the Temporary Detention Center, a separate facility that the Sheriff’s Office recently reopened.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office had 140 inmates in East Carroll Parish and another 58 at the River Correctional Center, a private facility in Concordia Parish.
The office has kept hundreds of inmates in remote parishes through arrangements with other sheriffs since 2015. After he took over day-to-day operations at the jail in October, Maynard hatched a plan to hire and train enough deputies to bring those inmates back.
Starting at the beginning of this year, hundreds more inmates were shipped out of the parish to allow the Sheriff’s Office to send two classes of deputies through extensive additional training. The number of inmates in out-of-parish custody peaked at 839 in April, according to Sheriff’s Office figures. The jail has now brought back hundreds of those inmates.
Maynard said he is “juggling” staffing at the jail in an effort to open more wings at the Temporary Detention Center, which he expects will hold many of the out-of-parish inmates when they return.
The new training measures and pay raises that are set to take effect in 2018 have increased staff retention, according to Maynard. He said annual turnover has decreased from about 30 percent before he took over to about 12 to 15 percent now.
Despite an aggressive recruiting program, however, the Sheriff’s Office is still short of the number of employees it would like to have staffing the jail.
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Maynard aims to have 239 deputies and 93 technicians — who monitor surveillance cameras, among other duties — staffing the jail. As of Wednesday, the jail had 215 deputies and 88 technicians, he said.
The federal monitors who watch over the jail’s court-ordered reform process have questioned whether the agency's staffing goals are robust enough to ensure safety at the jail, which remains plagued by suicides, overdoses and violence.
An outside consultant is still preparing a report on jail staffing, Maynard said.