Goal is to change conditions that have been described as "brutal" and "inhumane"
The Justice Department and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman have agreed on a series of court-supervised reforms designed to improve conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison.
The Justice Department first issued a scathing report about jail conditions three years ago and recently joined a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Last April, the Justice Department said it found "alarming conditions" during an inspection of the jail and uncovered persistently high rates of prisoner-on-prisoner violence and staff misconduct.
The settlement agreement calls for Gusman to implement a series of reforms, including providing adequate medical and mental health care and overhauling policies governing use of force and rape prevention.
The decree includes the following provisions:
• Review and monitoring of prison operations by a professional corrections administrator.
• Comprehensive policies governing the use of force and restraints on prisoners.
• Documenting and tracking complaints of prison staff using excessive force
• A staffing plan that provides enough officers to ensure prisoner safety
• A ban on placing teenagers in units where they may have contact with an adult prisoners.
• Guidelines for providing medical and mental health care for prisoners.
Funding remains an obstacle in implementing the consent decree. City officials said in October that Gusman's request for nearly $40 million would have a crippling effect on the city's operations.
“We are hopeful the judge will agree that this settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC’s New Orleans office.
"We also need the city to work with us and provide the funding to truly fix this jail," she said.