Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, Religious Leaders, Demand Sheriff Gusman’s Resignation
New Orleans, LA—Several prominent faith leaders, in collaboration with the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) held a press conference at 11:00am on March 21, 2016 in front of the new jail to demand that Sheriff Marlin Gusman resign from office immediately, citing the pervasive culture of violence and neglect in the new jail.
The latest federal consent decree over OPP has been in place since 2013. The federal court-appointed jail monitors testified last month that the new jail, which has been opened since September 2015, is far from safe, despite Sheriff Gusman’s promises that conditions would improve in the new jail facility. In the first three months in the new jail, the monitors reported that there were over 150 incidents (119 of which had not been reported), including over 200 assaults, 16 attempted suicides, 44 uses of force (of which only 20 were reported), 3 sexual assaults, and one death from a chronic illness. The first 33 days of 2016 logged 114 incidents in the new jail, and just two weeks ago Cleveland Tumblin died of self-inflicted injuries in the jail. And now Sheriff Gusman paid $1.7 million to settle the lawsuit of yet another inmate who committed suicide in the prison. Despite paying the large settlement, the sheriff denies responsibility for the death.
“The culture of violence and neglect that has plagued OPP continues into the new jail. Awaiting trial at Orleans Parish Prison is no less of a death sentence than it used to be,” said Norris Henderson, a member of OPPRC and the Executive Director of VOTE. “We have waited 12 years for the changes Gusman promised, and now we are demanding that he get out of the way so that the changes our community needs can finally be implemented.”
The participating ministers say, ” We are not willing to continue supporting a sheriff who continues to mismanage our jail, and who seeks to add more beds to a jail that already warehouses too many of our community members.”
“We would not be responsible leaders if we allowed irresponsible things to happen to our community. This is about the violence and destabilization that members of our community face in there. As we celebrate passion week, isn’t it divinely ironic that we as leaders don’t want to repeat the errors of Pontius Pilate and wash our hands as our brothers and sisters are being crucified in the Orleans Parish jail.
The jail monitor’s report can be found here: