NEW ORLEANS - Two Orleans Parish Prison inmates were booked with separate contraband charges this week for possession of cell phones, a sign that illegal goods continue to flow into the lockup despite fierce and ongoing criticism over jail security.
Jamar Sims, 34, was allegedly caught with a phone during a pat down of the Old Parish Prison facility behind the criminal courthouse. Court records show that Sims was completing a burglary sentence when the phone was found on April 8. Sims allegedly confessed on April 24.
Edward Patterson, 22, is accused of keeping a phone in his bunk at the jail’s work-release facility. He was completing a cocaine sentence when the phone was found April 28, court records show. He denied owning the phone or bringing it into the jail, according to the arrest report, but admitted using it.
Both men were re-booked with possession of contraband and remain locked up on the new charges.
The cell phone seizures by sheriff’s deputies come at a time when Sheriff Marlin Gusman is under intense fire on several fronts stemming from a proposed federal consent decree designed to correct longstanding problems that have led experts to call the prison one of the worst in the country.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city have intervened in the case, arguing in court motions that Gusman is an unfit jail warden and that OPP should be placed in federal receivership. During a recent court hearing, attorneys for the city presented a video showing inmates using drugs, drinking beer and playing with a loaded gun inside of a jail cell.
In the city’s most recent motion asking for Gusman’s removal, the city stated that a consent decree requires “leadership from someone dedicated to being jailer of Orleans Parish and not just hosting Easter egg hunts in the park.”
Gusman has fired back with his own shots in the war-of-words with the mayor. In an earlier press conference, Gusman blasted Landrieu, saying, “The mayor chooses to waste time with Washington-style politics and Archie Bunker rhetoric.”
Gusman has repeatedly said that the jail’s problems stem primarily from a lack of funding by City Hall.