Contraband, drugs seen on shocking new OPP video

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 6:10 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 17 at 10:17 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- Orleans Parish Prison has come a long way since a now-infamous video went viral showing inmates drinking beer, snorting drugs and handling a loaded gun inside a prison cell.

The prison complex is now under the watchful eye of monitors appointed under a federal consent decree in order to bring the jail up to Constitutional standards.

But even with the added scrutiny, it appears that prison officials do not have control over some of the behavior inside the lockup.

An exclusive 30-second video obtained by Eyewitness News appears to show inmates in a large holding cell, while several stand around a water fountain snorting lines of white powder.

In the audio accompanying the cell phone video, people can be heard talking about doing drugs.

"(They’re) over there snorting lines," a person can be heard saying.

The person narrating the video refers to the earlier video that was seen coast-to-coast and generated such outrage more than a year ago.

"OPP, OPP part two, part two on the news. Ain't got no guns and all that. We live entertainment,” the narrator can be heard saying.

The date and time stamp on the video shows that it was taken June 26 at 12:46 a.m.

The phone, which itself is considered contraband inside the prison, also contains several photographs showing wider images of the holding cell.

In some of the pictures, men are wearing orange jumpsuits that can clearly identified with the letters OPSO, for Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.

The video and photographs surfaced just days after another disturbing video was shown, this one obtained legally and shown in federal court.

The video was shot by consent decree Monitor Susan McCampbell, appointed by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to oversee the prison improvements.

The images from McCampbell’s surprise visit shows grime, mold, broken windows and, in one shot, an inmate locked inside a flooded cell.

In her court testimony on Monday, McCampbell called the conditions "appalling."

The video that went viral in 2013 – dubbed “Inmates Gone Wild” on some websites – was shot in 2009 and led to indictments against 14 inmates.

Most of those defendants have pleaded guilty to contraband charges.

The inmate featured most prominently in the video, Arthur Johnson, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to possession of contraband and being a felon with a gun.

In a plea bargain, Johnson is serving that sentence concurrent with a 14-year sentence on weapon and drug convictions.

The sheriff's office released the following statement: 

"The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has a zero-tolerance policy as it relates to contraband.  Several signs are posted in and around the Intake and Processing Center indicating that the introduction of contraband in a jail is against the law.

"However, the Sheriff’s Office is prohibited from strip searching in the intake center. There was a $10 million settlement under a previous Sheriff’s administration banning strip searches in the intake center.  The Sheriff’s Office cannot conduct strip searches in the intake center without probable cause.  We rely on the arresting agencies to conduct thorough searches -- incident to a lawful arrest -- before arrestees enter the Intake and Processing Center. This alleged contraband violation did not occur in a housing unit.

"The Sheriff’s Office encourages anyone with evidence of contraband in secure areas to turn over that evidence to the Sheriff’s Office. We will investigate all violations of the law and will make an arrest if the facts warrant."

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