A dozen inmates from New Orleans’ Orleans Parish Prison died in 2007 and 2008, placing the institution near the top in mortality rates compared with other large jails, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Compared with the average mortality rates from 2000 to 2006 at the 50 largest jails, kept by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the New Orleans jail’s mortality rates from the past two years would rank eighth nationally. The death rate still is eclipsed by those at large jails in such cities as Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman said the people who end up in his care have far more health problems than the general population. Inmates often enter with longtime drug and alcohol problems, he said. Eight of the 17 inmates who have died since January 2006 died of natural causes, the coroner has ruled. The American Civil Liberties Union called the mortality rate “highly troubling.” “The recent spike in deaths, coupled with the fact that the jail has lost its health accreditation, indicate that Sheriff Gusman needs to re-evaluate how services are being provided at his facility,” legal director Katie Schwartzmann said. The jail lost its accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care last year because of service shortfalls after Hurricane Katrina.