An Open Letter Regarding Community Oversight

July 21, 2016

To:

  • Marlin Gusman, Orleans Parish Sheriff
  • Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans
  • Stacy Head, Jason R. Williams, Susan G. Guidry, LaToya Cantrell, Nadine M. Ramsey, Jared C. Brossett, James A. Gray III, City Council of New Orleans
  • The Honorable Lance Africk, Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Katie Schwartzmann, Elizabeth Cumming, Emily Washington, Eric Foley, Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center
  • Rebecca H. Dietz, City Attorney, City of New Orleans
  • Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., Theodore Carter III, U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Vanita Gupta, Steven H. Rosenbaum, Laura L. Coon, Kerry K. Dean, Corey M. Sanders, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

 

To Whom It May Concern:

On May 18th, 2016, the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) along with several other organizations filed an amicus brief in the Jones v. Gusman lawsuit. The amicus brief asked Judge Africk to create an independent community based oversight board with real authority to monitor conditions of confinement in Orleans Parish Prison, whether receivership be granted or not. This motion was denied, and an agreement concerning receivership was reached.

According to the terms of the agreement, an Independent Compliance Director with final authority to oversee the jail will be tasked with bringing the jail into substantial compliance with the Consent Judgment. It is OPPRC’s belief that without meaningful transparency and community oversight, long-term, sustainable, humanistic care cannot be provided. Given the absolute need for more transparency and accountability to the community in the actual operation and oversight of the New Orleans jail, we request the following:

  • A public meeting to inform community members of the details and terms of the receivership agreement, and to provide a space for questions and input. Given that a search for a Compliance Director is already underway, this public meeting should occur as soon as possible.
  • A public Compliance Director interview process, whereby community members may interview potential candidates for Compliance Director. This may occur in the form of a candidates’ forum or town hall.
  • The creation of a process through which the public may submit feedback and input during the search for Compliance Director.
  • The appointment of community representatives to liaise between community members and officials involved in the Compliance Director search process. These representatives should reflect the communities that are most impacted by the operations and conditions of the jail and therefore have deep knowledge and expertise of the issues at hand.

Community involvement over the Compliance Director search process is just the beginning of a process of creating greater oversight over our jail. For over 10 years, OPPRC has been heavily involved in campaigns to reform jail conditions and shrink our jail size in order to create a safer and more just New Orleans. We ask that citizens be included as partners in the process of making our jail safer, smaller, and more humane. This is just the first step, and we stand ready to work with any and all parties to implement it.

 

Sincerely,

Donald Chopin, Member of VOTE

Yvette Thierry, B.S. in Criminal Justice, MA Candidate

On Behalf of the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC)

 

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