Feds: New Orleans Jail Conditions Unconstitutional


Conditions at New Orleans’ Orleans Parish jail “violate the constitutional rights of inmates,” says a U.S. Department of Justice study focusing on inmate safety and mental health care, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The Justice Department, finding that some conditions at the jail are unconstiutional, said inmates are not sufficiently protected from violence inflicted by other inmates or from “excessive use of force” by prison staff.

The report pointed to problems in medical services at the jail, especially mental health care. The use of restraints on the tier reserved for mentally ill inmates was singled out for criticism, as well as procedures for suicide prevention and dispensing medication to inmates. Other aspects of the medical care meet constitutional mandates, investigators concluded. Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who runs the jail said the report doesn’t reflect the current reality at the complex or take into account difficulties his agency has faced since Hurricane Katrina. “This report is a terribly dated, fundamentally flawed work done by people who obviously have little appreciation of the tasks facing a city in recovery from the greatest national disaster in this country’s history, ” Gusman said. The Justice Department’s civil rights division said the jail should develop better policies for use of force by guards, as well as improve investigations of complaints of abuse.

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