The U.S. Department of Justice released the following statement:
"The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a proposed consent decree with class plaintiffs and Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) Sheriff Marlin Gusman following a comprehensive investigation and extensive settlement negotiations regarding unlawful conditions at the prison. The consent decree outlines remedial measures to address the allegations in the complaints filed by class plaintiffs and by the United States in Jones v. Gusman, including deficiencies in prisoner safety from physical and sexual assaults, medical and mental health care, suicide prevention, environmental and life safety and limited English proficiency (LEP) services for Spanish-speaking prisoners."
Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy L. Austin Jr. is in New Orleans to address the issue. Local officials and advocates joined him for a news conference. They include Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Katie Schwartzmann with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"We are hopeful the judge will agree that this settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved," said Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC's New Orleans office and lead attorney on the case. "We also applaud Sheriff Gusman and his office for taking the important first step of acknowledging the problems within the jail. While implementation will be difficult, we are committed to improving conditions, and will work with him to do so. We also need the city to work with us and provide the funding to truly fix this jail."
Schwartzmann says the decree includes the following provisions:
Review and monitoring of prison operations by a professional corrections administrator.
Comprehensive policies governing the use of force and restraints on prisoners.
Documenting and tracking complaints of prison staff using excessive force.
A staffing plan that provides enough officers to ensure prisoner safety.
A ban on placing teenagers in units where they may have contact with an adult prisoner.
Guidelines for providing medical and mental health care for prisoners.
Critics have said conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison have been deplorable with too many inmates who have died, killed themselves, been injured, been raped or escaped.