In April, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced that he had appointed Carmen I. DeSadier to be the new chief of corrections for his office, a position she assumed on May 4th. As Chief of Corrections, she will be tasked with implementing the reforms mandated by a federal consent decree in order to bring Orleans Parish Jail into constitutional compliance.
DeSadier comes to us after having risen from a correctional officer to First Assistant Executive Director Sheriff within the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, IL. Cook County Jail is widely regarded as one of the most violent jails in the country. During a hearing in October 2014, an expert witness testified that the violence in parts of Cook County Jail was some of the worst jail violence he’s ever seen.
Not only was DeSadier a senior administrator in one of the most violent jails in the country, she herself has a less-than-clean track record. A 1993 internal affairs report stated that while working as a sergeant in the jail, DeSadier brought a “large group of officers” who are said to have beaten a group of 15 inmates after an inmate called DeSadier “Olive Oyl.” Despite Cook County paying out millions of dollars over abuse of prisoners, and her involvement in such abuses, DeSadier has since been promoted and worked her way up to becoming a senior administrator.
In a twist of small world carceral irony, Cook County jail, like OPP, is also under a federal consent decree being monitored by Susan McCampbell, the same lead monitor overseeing OPP’s 2-year old consent decree. DeSadier had worked for Cook County jail for at least a decade before a consent decree was issued in 2010. What was her role in leading the jail towards a place deemed so violent as to be unconstitutional? Where is the record of her complaints of abuse, or are there only complaints leveled against her? Under her oversight, why has the consent decree at Cook County Jail been in place for 5 years without being lifted? Why did Sheriff Gusman hire a senior administrator at one of the most violent jails in the country to run ours? In her most recent Summary of Findings of Compliance, Susan McCampbell failed to find the sheriff fully in compliance with any of the 174 paragraphs of the Consent Judgment. In other words, in the face of failure, Sheriff Gusman brought in a senior administrator from one of America’s most notoriously failing jails.
This hiring is just the latest in Sheriff Gusman’s mis-handling of the jail. From ignoring City Council’s 1438-bed mandate for the new jail, to his “incompetently negotiated and illegal” health care contract for inmate health care at Orleans Parish Prison, Sheriff Gusman has proven yet again his lack of commitment to a smaller, safer jail.
Given the Sheriff’s mis-management and questionable judgment, his unilateral appointment must be called into question. The process through which DeSadier was selected remains murky; according to the Sheriff’s website, a national search was conducted. The members of her selection committee, if there was one, remain unknown. Unlike the process in which former Chief of Corrections Michael Tidwell was hired, DeSadier’s selection process appears to have been a unilateral decision on the part of the sheriff.
Michael Tidwell, the former Chief of Corrections who resigned in December, wrote in his resignation letter that he hoped his resignation would allow the sheriff to “hire someone more in tune with (his) management style and agency vision.” This begs the question to be answered; is safer, smaller and/or more humane found anywhere in the Sheriff’s vision when it pertains to OPP?