Jones v. GusmanJail and Prison Conditions
The Orleans Justice Center, formerly called Orleans Parish Prison, has been the subject of civil rights litigation since 1969. In September 2009 and April 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice issued letters to Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, describing findings of conditions that violate the Constitution, including lack of safety from violence, excessive use of force by deputies and prison staff, lack of adequate medical and mental health care, and other issues.
Before she joined the MacArthur Justice Center, Katie Schwartzmann filed two lawsuits challenging the Sheriff’s operation of the prison on behalf of the men, women and kids incarcerated there. The DOJ joined the case as co-plaintiffs. A consent judgment was approved by U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk on June 6, 2013, who stated: “The Court finds that the proposed consent judgment is the only way to overcome the years of stagnation that have permitted OPP to remain an indelible stain on the community, and it will ensure that OPP inmates are treated in a manner that does not offend contemporary notions of human decency.”
Since November 2013, the MacArthur Justice Center has taken up the challenge of enforcing the consent judgment. Now led by attorney Emily Washington, our team of attorneys and investigators enter OJC multiple times per week to meet one-on-one with our incarcerated clients and report on conditions, practices or incidents that violate the consent judgment. We also review documents provided by the Sheriff’s Office, meet with the independent Court Monitors, and review and respond to the Monitors’ reports to the Court.
Our approach to enforcement of the consent judgment is more labor-intensive than in many other such cases across the U.S. The previous litigation against OPP, which lasted from 1969-2007, failed to bring the jail into compliance with the Constitution. We believe we must assert our clients’ rights on a day-to-day basis, raising their voices against continued mistreatment in violation of our Constitution.
Filed - April 2, 2012