Orleans Parish Prison: Big Jails at Big Cost
The 7,000-bed prison facility with an operating budget of $75 million is well known as a bastion of violence, corruption and political patronage. People incarcerated at OPP tell disturbing stories of open and pervasive drug use and beatings allowed and administered by guards. Less than two years ago, two guards were indicted for beating prisoner to death after he was picked up on charges of public drunkenness. Prisoners have died of treatable medical conditions such as peptic ulcers and in 2001 Shawn Duncan died a gruesome death by dehydration after being held in restraints for 42 hours. He was in jail on traffic charges. In 2004, OPP was one of the top five prisons in the nation with substantiated reports of sexual violence. Though OPP remains under one of the longest federal court ordered consent decrees in United States history, the oversight is largely ineffectual.
Because of poor police practices and an indigent defense system in the early stages of reform, the men and women detained in OPP often end up serving front-end sentences, or "DA time." That is, they sit in jail without representation on minor charges until they either plead to time-served, or are released at 60 days because no indictment has been returned. This use of the jail as a facility for serving front-end sentences creates an extra-judicial, shadow criminal justice system that undermines our democratic principles.
Reform the Orleans Parish Jail System: