NEW ORLEANS - Commuters have watched the new, Orleans Parish jail, rise from the once flooded prison campus along I-10 in Mid-City. The modern correctional center replaces two prison buildings destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.
If all goes as planned, inmates are now expected to move in by the end of June.
The four-story, concrete-framed building will house 1,438 inmates. Thursday, Sheriff Marlin Gusman led WWL-TV on a tour of the building.
"We designed this facility with the best of the current codes and standards," Gusman said. "We have more cameras, more surveillance, we have call boxes in each housing cell. More instructional, more consultation areas. The old way, we had none."
The prison is under a federal court order to implement sweeping reforms. The old jail had a long history of cruelty and neglect.
The new prison includes 20 double occupancy, 30 cell housing units each with its own prison yard. There are also dorms for lower security inmates.
The intake and processing areas and the prison computerized control center are state of the art.
"We've been fortunate to move corrections, incarceration and take a quantum leap," Gusman said.
There are also courtrooms inside the jail where arrestees will make their first appearance before a judge.
"That's really going to make a big difference with our transportation," Gusman said. "Movement is where you're most risky and you take on the most exposure."
Sheriff Gusman is now campaigning for a tax proposal on the May 2 ballot, that would raise the money he says he needs to run the new jail.
The proposed 10 year law enforcement district tax is nearly identical to a proposal rejected by Orleans Parish voters last fall.
"We want the public to understand the urgency and the emergency nature of this," Gusman said. "We need to have these operational funds in order to make a building like this work."
The independent budget watchdog, Bureau of Governmental Research supports the tax, despite some concerns about the law enforcement district's oversight and contracting practices.
"The bottom line is we are going to have to come up with the money and this seemed like a way that was supported by both the city and the sheriff for getting it done," BGR President and CEO Janet Howard.
According to the sheriff, the new prison is expected to be substantially complete by the end of the month.