June 25, 1970- Hamilton v. Schirro – at a plaintiff’s hearing for a preliminary and permanent injunction on Orleans Parish Prison, the judge of the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana noted that conditions in the system were “a shock to the conscious.” Deficiencies included: over-crowdedness, dilapidated structure, as well as infestation by rats, mice, roaches and vermin.
Litigation on prisoner-guard in Orleans Parish Prison resulted in a writ of supervisory mandamus to the Middle District of Louisiana for all issues concerning inmate population and supervision.
January 22, 1992- plaintiffs represented by the ACLU National Prison Project filed suit against Orleans Parish Prison.
November 22, 1993- A result of litigation against Sheriff Foti for medical care and mental health conditions in OPP, Foti enters into an environmental consent decree.
March, 1994- State and Sheriffs execute an agreement called “Basic Jail Guidelines” in order to ensure that Louisiana prisons and jails operate in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.
December 21, 1994- A new action involving female inmates was initiated. The suit eventually included all inmates and extended consent decrees on medical, issues, the psychiatric program, as well as remaining issues from the 93’ decree.
October 14, 1997- Sherrif Foti enters into consent decree for eventually housing 300 youths in the corrections system at the Conchetta Facility of Orleans Parish Prison, despite a cap of 150. The only reason he housed any youths was as a favor to the mayor in 1986. The Youth Studies Center could not house 10 inmates. From 10 youth inmates the number rose to 300. Needless to say Conchetta was not fit for youth inmates. Thus a decree was created that set up divisions by classifications. The decree enumerated that youth inmates have space for recreation and education. It also required programming and that the sheriff not impose any of his own requirements on the youth inmates.
And then OPPRC was formed…
September 2004- A group of organizers and activists collaborate to create a Nine Point Platform to reform and change the conditions at Orleans Parish Prison. This platform is supplemented by reports that engage in why such reform was/is necessary.
September 22, 2005 — Human Rights Watch reports that OPP prisoners were abandoned during Hurricane Katrina.
August 10th, 2006- ACLU releases Abandoned & Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina, documenting the experiences of thousands of men, women and children who were abandoned at Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) in the days after the storm.
Orleans Parish Prison ranks in top ten jails with highest mortality rate (12 deaths in 2007-2008), according to Bureau of Justice Statistics data.
June 23-27, August 18-20, and November 17-20, 2008- US Department of Justice conducted on-site inspections at OPP with expert consultations in corrections, use of force, custodial medical and mental health care, and sanitation.
September 21, 2009 – Department of Justice releases a report on its investigation of OPP, claiming that conditions there violate the constitutional rights of inmates.
July, 2010- City Council establishes a working group to look into land use application related to a new Orleans Parish Prison Building.
September 2010 –Hundreds of people contribute $22.39 (the daily–per diem–cost to incarcerate one person in the jail) toward the cost of a full page ad in the Times Picayune, calling on the Mayor and City Council to stop funding a huge jail and shift funds to other priorities.
September 22, 2010 – Mayor Landrieu convenes a Criminal Justice Working Group established by executive order and tasked with coming up with a recommendation on the size of the new parish jail.
Oct 4, 2010 –ACLU releases its report In For a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtors’ Prisons which includes a section specifically looking at incarceration in New Orleans
November 8, 2010 OPPRC hosts public comment forum regarding OPP expansion plans at MLK School, 1617 Caffin.
November 11, 2010 OPPRC hosts second of two public comment forums regarding OPP expansion plans at Dryades YMCA at 2220 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
February 3, 2011- City Council passes an ordinance to build a 1,438-bed jail. The ordinance includes a requirement that all current buildings must be decommissioned and demolished after completion of the new facility.
September, 2011. OPPRC launches public education campaign with billboard on Interstate 10.
September 20, 2011 OPPRC hosts community forum regarding conditions at Orleans Parish Prison at Mahalia Jackson Community Center & School. Department of Justice representatives are present.
October 1, 2011 OPPRC hosts second community forum regarding conditions at Orleans Parish Prison at Treme Community Center, with Department of Justice representatives in attendance.
November 29, 2011 OPPRC holds press conference and delivers a petition to adopt 2 key reforms: Limit the size of the Orleans Parish Prison to 1438 beds and End the “per diem” budget system. See reports on and video of the press conference here and here, and read about Mayor Landrieu’s response here.
March 26, 2012. U.S. Marshals Service removes all of the agency’s federal inmates from Orleans Parish Prison because of conditions.
April 24, 2012 The Micah Project holds a community meeting where Deputy Mayor Andrew Kopplin, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and a representative from Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s office all publicly pledged support for the 1438 cap. Read news coverage here and here.
May 2012- The Times Picayune launches the first of an eight part series on Mass Incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex in Louisiana called Lousiana Incarcerated.
June 7-8, 2012 Urban Congress to End Criminalization of our Communities Now! held in New Orleans—OPPRC charges Mayor Landrieu and other city leaders with “blood on their hands” from deaths in the jail, and demands an immediate release of all municipal non-violent offenders, people who would be released if a category 3 hurricane entered the Gulf. Watch video from the Congress here.
June 22, 2012 — The Lens reports that the Sheriff and City officials were having “quiet discussions” about building an additional jail facility to house 600 inmates.
November 30, 2012 – New Orleans City Council passes city budget that continues to utilize the per-diem system to fund jail operations
March 28, 2013 Mayor Landrieu calls emergency City Council hearing to discuss his concerns regarding the cost of the consent decrees.
April 1-4 2013 Fairness Hearing over the terms of the Consent Decree in United States District Court. See a report on closing arguments here, the Lens’ blogging from the hearing here, and commentary by OPPRC’s Pam Nath here.
April 18, 2013 OPPRC releases statement: Mayor Plays Political Games at Our Peril.
August, 2013. After pressure from activists, Sheriff Gusman announces he will end voluntary Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds for most offenses.
October 21, 2013. Consent Judgement over conditions at OPP takes effect.
The Lens reports that the per-diem jail funding system, in which the city of New Orleans pays the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office $22.39/person/day is no longer in effect, although the details of how and when the change happened remain unclear.
Jan 16, 2014. OPPRC hosts sheriff candidates forum at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church. Candidates included Marlin Gusman (incumbent), Ira Thomas, Charles Foti, and Quentin Brown.
February 1, 2014. Orleans Parish sheriff election. Charles Foti and Marlin Gusman head to run off election.
March 15, 2014. Marlin Gusman wins reelection, promising to fully comply with the terms of the consent decree and to open the new 1,438-bed jail by June 2014.
In June 25, 2014. OPPRC hosts public forum with the lead federal monitor overseeing the consent decree in which community members testified about the continued violence at OPP. Sheriff Gusman did not attend the meeting.
July 8, 2014: OPPRC hosted a Take Back the Land forum regarding Sheriff Gusman’s proposal to expand the new jail, and calling on community groups to share their vision of how the proposed Phase III space could be used in a way that would help make New Orleans a safer, healthier, and more just community.
August 1, 2014. The sheriff and the mayor reveal their plans for the size and cost of OPP. Sheriff Gusman reveals a proposal for a Phase III building, while Mayor Landrieu proposes a retrofit of the Phase II building.
August 21, 2014. City Council votes to retrofit Phase II to accommodate sick and mentally ill patients, rather than building an additional Phase III jail building. The resolution also calls on Sheriff Gusman to return people from Plaquemines Parish back to Plaquemines Parish custody, and to return people serving state sentences who are not in a work-release, community service or re-entry program back to a state facility.
October, 2014. In a private, closed-door meeting Sheriff Gusman negotiates and signs an $85 million contract with Correct Care Solutions, a private healthcare management company. The contract, one of the most expensive in the industry, was negotiated without the knowledge of city officials, who pay for it. The negotiations drew criticism from New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, who said that the practice of closed-door negotiations is “associated with corruption, for obvious reasons.”
December 8, 2014. Chief Corrections Deputy Michael Tidwell resigns, amid accounts that he never received the autonomy necessary to significantly shift the culture and operations of the jail.
April 2015. Sheriff Marlin Gusman appoints Carmen DeSadier as the new Chief of Corrections. DeSadier had been a senior administrator at Cook County jail, one of the most violent jails in the country, and herself had faced allegations of abuse.
May 27, 2015. New Orleans becomes one of 20 jurisdictions to win a planning grant from the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, a grant given to sites that have “demonstrated the motivation, collaboration, and commitment needed to make real change in their local justice systems.”
June 24,2015. Following Sheriff Gusman’s request for $84 million to build a third jail building, city issues stop-work order on construction of the new jail, accusing Sheriff Gusman of violating city code and failing to build a jail building that accommodates all populations. Two days later the stop work order is reversed in civil district court.
July 6, 2015. OPPRC files Amicus Brief in support of 1,438 cap.
July 16, 2015. City withdraws its objections to new jail building following private discussions with the Sheriff.
September 11, 2015. Sheriff Gusman transfers 180 people awaiting trial in New Orleans to East Carroll and Franklin parishes, causing them to miss court dates and be far away from their families and attorneys.
September 14, 2015. New jail building is opened.
December 11, 2015. Alongside civic leaders, OPPRC members sign a letter urging Judge Lance Africk, who is overseeing the consent decree, to use the consent judgment to push for a jail no larger than 1,438 beds. The letter also demanded that Gusman return 300 people serving state sentence to state custody, that people awaiting trial in New Orleans held in Northern Louisiana be returned to New Orleans, that people under 18 years old be sent to the Youth Study Center, and that mental health facilities be included in the 1,438-bed jail building.
January 22, 2016. Sheriff Gusman transfers 140 people awaiting trial in New Orleans to East Carroll parish, causing them to miss court dates and be far away from their families and attorneys.
January 29, 2016. Sheriff Gusman announces he will shut down his reentry program and send those enrolled in the program back to state custody. Sheriff Gusman was under no legal obligation to hold people serving state sentences, and doing so bulked up his jail population.. The program had been proven to be ineffective.
February 2, 2016. Jail monitors report an “absolutely unacceptable” level of violence in the New Orleans Justice Center in the first status hearing in federal court since the new building opened.
February 15, 2016. Judge gives class action status to a lawsuit accusing Sheriff Gusman of withholding overtime pay for deputies.
February 19, 2016. Chief of Corrections Carmen DeSadier quits after less than one year on the job.
February 22, 2016. Concerns raised over fire safety standards in new jail.
March 21, 2016. OPPRC and a group of pastors call for Sheriff Gusman’s resignation.
April 25, 2016. Inmate-Plaintiffs file for federal receivership, asking for a federal takeover to bring the jail into compliance with the consent decree.
May, 2016. OPPRC file an amicus brief asking the federal judge overseeing the Jones v. Gusman case to consider community oversight of the jail.
May 25, 2016. Receivership Hearings begin. OPPRC holds a press conference on the first day of the hearing with family members of those who have died in the jail.
June 21, 2016. Compliance Director Agreement reached, appointing a Compliance Director to operate the the jail. The Court Order stipulates that although the Sheriff may advise or give advice, Compliance Director has final authority and answers only to the court.
July 21, 2016. OPPRC issues Open Letter to all parties involved in the consent decree regarding Community Oversight, and demanding a transparent Compliance Director hiring process.
August 10, 2016. After receiving no response from consent decree parties, OPPRC hosts a Town Hall, and invites all parties involved in the Consent Decree process to attend.
October 1, 2016. Gary Maynard begins as Compliance Director. He is tasked with deciding how to house Special Populations–expanding the jail, or retrofitting the existing facilities, within 60 days.
November 21st, 2016. OPPRC hosts a Town Hall about jail expansion. Members of the public unanimously opposed jail expansion. Compliance Director Maynard, Councilmembers Susan Guidry and Jason Williams, and City Attorney Rebecca Dietz attend.
November 30th, 2016. OPPRC holds an overnight vigil outside the jail, to bring the conversation about jail expansion into the open, and oppose the expansion of the jail. A decision was to be made by December 1. Hours before the start of the vigil, Director Maynard was granted a 30 day extension.
December 29, 2016. OPPRC delivers petition with over 1,000 signatures from community members opposed to the jail expansion to members of the City Council, Mayor Landrieu and Director Maynard.
January 4, 2017. Director Maynard files recommendation to build an 89-bed Phase III facility for people with mental illness and medical needs. In addition, Director Maynard’s recommendation calls for the reopening of 200 beds in the Temporary Detention Center (TDC) for “temporary overflow populations.” In subsequent months Director Maynard’s recommendation would increase to over 300 “temporary overflow” beds.
January 12, 2017—City Council unanimously passes OPPRC’s municipal bail reform ordinance, eliminating money bail for most city charges.
February 22, 2017—The family of Cleveland Tumblin, who committed suicide shortly after the new jail facility opened, files a lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that the jail was “seemingly designed to facilitate suicides,” and that Mr. Tumblin repeatedly asked to see a mental health professional.
March 8, 2017. OPPRC sends an Open Letter to City Council outlining the coalition’s opposition to Director Maynard’s plan.
March 17,, 2017. A severe “disturbance” occurs in the jail. Over the course of 8 hours, inmates gained control of a control room, opened cell doors, barricaded themselves, and set fires to the building. The Sheriff’s Office significantly downplayed the severity of the event.
April 22, 2017. OPPRC hosts a Teach-In to educate community members about the proposal to expand the jail, the process it will take, and strategies for interrupting it.
May 11, 2017. The Criminal Justice Committee of City Council hears a proposal from Director Maynard to expand the jail, as well as an alternative proposal to retrofit the existing jail in order to prevent an expansion. Over 70 community members filled the council chambers, and dozens of community members testified in opposition to the jail expansion. As a result, an alternative motion to retrofit the jail was introduced, alongside the jail expansion proposal.
May 18, 2017. Dozens of community members testified at a City Council meeting in opposition to the jail expansion and in support of the alternative proposal to retrofit the jail. In a 5-1 vote, City Council voted to refer only the jail expansion proposal on to the City Planning Commission, adding a last minute amendment to study the possibility of swapping out beds in order to maintain the 1,438 bed cap. Read OPPRC’s response here.
May 19, 2017. The family of Jaquin Thomas, a 15 year old who committed suicide in the jail, files a wrongful death lawsuit, seeking damages not only for his death but for his abuse throughout the entire criminal justice system.