By Jim Mustian / The New Orleans Advocate
NEW ORLEANS -- In less than three months, many of the inmates held at the dilapidated Orleans Parish Prison are slated to be transferred to a new facility, a long-awaited move that Sheriff Marlin Gusman says will be critical to fixing the widespread problems at a jail that is considered to be among the most dangerous in the country.
During an interview and tour of the $145 million facility Tuesday, Gusman said that after years of construction, the new building is tentatively scheduled to open May 15. The sheriff has portrayed the “direct supervision”-style lockup as a panacea of sorts that will solve some of the unconstitutional conditions at the current jail that prompted a federal consent decree mandating sweeping improvements.
“We’ve been trying to make things work here as we tear down buildings and we move into other buildings and focus on where we’re going to be,” Gusman said.
Who is to blame for Orleans Parish Prison’s dysfunction has emerged as the central issue in the March 15 runoff as Gusman defends his record against Charles Foti, who as sheriff before Gusman ran a controversial jail for three decades. While Gusman has emphasized the benefits that will come from the new buildings he had a hand in designing, Foti has countered that significant changes won’t materialize at the jail without a change in leadership and how staff are deployed.
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