Even after Hurricane Katrina significantly reduced New Orleans’ population, the city is poised to maintain one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Critics of Orleans Parish Prison yesterday told the City Council that Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman should reduce the number of people jailed before trial. Councilwoman Shelley Midura grilled Gusman, questioning why New Orleans would need 3,300 jail beds for 2007. “Can you give us an idea why this is so high, given the fact that the population is so diminished?” asked Midura.
Gusman said the number is in line with the city’s growing population. Before Katrina, the jail had about 6,020 people in custody and could house 7,200 inmates in 11 jails. Currently, 2,700 people are in the sheriff’s custody. Midura and others said that supervised work release and other programs might end up being cheaper than traditional incarceration. Gusman agreed, and said he meet with representatives of the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, a New York agency that works on changing corrections programs. Cory Turner, a former state parole officer now director of Louisiana CURE, which advocates rehabilitation programs in prisons, cited the high recidivism rate of one New Orleans program. He said a larger problem is the lack of detox or other programs in New Orleans to help people kick drugs and alcohol.