A new New Orleans justice complex — a massive public works project quietly planned in recent months by Mayor Ray Nagin and key law enforcement leaders — would take at least seven years to build and cost about $1 billion, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency document reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The concept, still lacking financing, calls for new jail buildings designed not only to lock up criminal offenders awaiting trial but also to provide rehabilitative services. A new police headquarters would be equipped to withstand the ravages of a hurricane or flood. Consolidated court buildings could operate more efficiently by grouping the municipal, traffic, civil, and criminal courts.
The project faces huge obstacles, chiefly the need for a massive injection of cash. FEMA officials say the agency now expects to give the city only $238 million in compensation for damage to all of the city’s current justice buildings — less than a quarter of the amount needed to complete the plan. Some of that money already is being spent on repairing the damaged buildings — including the headquarters of the New Orleans Police Department, district attorney, and traffic and municipal courts — calling into question how the city will raise the money. The “Justice Facilities Master Plan” was launched in March and finalized in September.