The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday asked a federal judge for permission to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit that accuses Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman of running a jail rife with violence and other unconstitutional conditions, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The move seems to signal that the Justice Department and Gusman are close to reaching a settlement expected to take the form of a federal consent decree over the jail. A news release by the Justice Department expressed confidence that would be the end result.
“Although we have moved to intervene in the pending litigation, we are hopeful that we can reach a negotiated resolution of this case in the near future and put in place a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the department’s civil rights division, said in the release. A statement from the sheriff’s office called the Justice Department’s involvement “appropriate to attempt to resolve all issues at one time.” The original suit against Gusman was filed earlier this year by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It cites numerous examples of violent incidents at the jail and failures to properly care for mentally ill inmates, including those that were suicidal.