New Orleans

Appeals court rules against city in dispute over new jail building – New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana 2022-06-30 19:14:45 –

Three judges from the Federal Court of Appeals in the 5th Circuit on Thursday say the city of New Orleans must proceed with the construction of a controversial prison medical and mental health facility known as Phase III, 2021 in the Lower Court. Confirmed the order of the year.

Judgment It means another defeat for the administration of Mayor LaToya Cantrell. The LaToya Cantrell administration has been trying to break away from the previous agreement to build a facility created by its predecessor, Mayor Mitch Landrew, since 2020. The Cantrell administration claims that facilities over $ 50 million are expensive and unnecessary.

However, earlier last year, Judge Lance Africk of the US District Court, who presided over a long-term federal consent decree against the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, ruled that the city must comply with the agreement. The city immediately appealed the ruling and Discussion in front of the 5th Circuit Judge March last year.

Throughout most of the dispute, the city was the only party to the Consent Decree against Phase III. Former sheriff Merlin Gasman has long supported the construction of new prison facilities. His administration left room for it ten years ago when he oversaw the construction of a new prison building and kitchen / warehouse facility on campus. Prison-sized “green space” Between the two buildings.

Other parties, the U.S. Department of Justice, and civil rights lawyers representing prison detainees are all in favor, and plaintiffs in the proceedings that led to the consent decree endorse Phase III under the current prison, Orleans Justice Center. Did. It is not designed to accommodate detainees with urgent needs.

However, Gasman was subsequently replaced by a new sheriff, Susan Hutson, a former city independent police monitor who took office in May. Hatson ran on a reform platform, supporting groups like the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Union, which has long opposed increasing prison footprints, and people with serious mental health problems are treated in the medical setting rather than in prison. Insisted that it should be.

“Through her campaign, Sheriff Hatson was solid against Phase III,” read a written statement from Hatson’s office on Thursday. “Citizens of New Orleans have chosen to serve her as their sheriff. Accept her commitment to remodel an existing prison. In light of the decision on Circuit 5, the sheriff explored her options. Sheriff Hatson is committed to the safety of all life taking care of her, including both the OJC service agent and the inhabitants who live there. “

“There is ample evidence … existing facilities remain inadequate.”

The city’s debate changed over the course of the controversy, but they were essentially summarized in three issues: the need for facilities, their costs, and the legality of Afric’s orders.

The city will provide appropriate care to all classes of detainees required under a consent decree due to improved prison care and a sharp decline in the detainee population over time. Claimed that the 89-bed facility was no longer needed. In addition, a city lawyer claimed that Phase III was too expensive at the proposed cost of $ 50 million. Most of the construction ($ 39 million) will be covered by FEMA redemption after Katrina, but the city spends millions of dollars a year to do it, in addition to the rest, and other important public Services that may jeopardize your ability to provide services.

Finally, the city is Afric Banned by Federal Prison Proceedings Reform Act From ordering the local government to build a prison facility.

However, Thursday’s opinion, written by Judge Rhesa Barksdale, found that all three discussions failed.

In response to the city’s allegations regarding the Prison Proceedings Reform Act, other parties to the consent decree had previously claimed that Africk did not, in fact, order the city to build a prison.He ordered the city to respect the previous agreement made by Landrieu in 2016. As part of the reconciliation.. The reconciliation deprives Gasman of his day-to-day control over the prison and empowers the new Compliance Director, the appointed officer who took over on behalf of Gasman, to draft plans to contain detainees with urgent needs. Was done. In January 2017, then Compliance Director Gary Maynard recommended the construction of an 89-bed facility.

But Thursday’s opinion did not touch on the benefits of the discussion. The PLRA’s discussion was outside the scope of the Court of Appeals’ review due to the city’s delay, the opinion said. The city had to prove that it needed to be removed from the previous agreement due to significant changes in terms or law. Not only did the city not file a prison proceedings law in the years leading up to 2020, but it also did not file an original 2020 court petition to remove it from the previous agreement. It wasn’t until the subsequent reply briefs that the problem surfaced.

In order for the Court of Appeals to consider the debate, the city must prove that the relevant provisions of the PLRA have brought about significant changes in the law or situation so that Africk’s orders are “no longer fair.” Said. The Court of Appeals found the city’s allegations to be inadequate.

In terms of costs, the Court of Appeals judge decided that more FEMA funds could be used than the city claimed. The funds allocated for Phase III will come from $ 70 million of post-Katrina federal funding aimed at replacing the Templeman II building in prison.

And the judge found that the current prison was simply not built for the job and did not accept the city’s claim that the modification could provide proper inmate care.

“There is no merit in the city’s claim that OJC already provides detainees with medical and mental health care that exceeds minimum constitutional standards,” he said. “There is ample evidence, including testimony from an independent monitor, and existing facilities … remain inadequate due to the lack of suicide-resistant cells. Appropriate for programming required by the Consent Decree. Activity space. And clinic. The existing facilities are still inadequate, so the required modified conditions do not exist. “

The office of Mayor LaToya Cantrell did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision.

Appeals court rules against city in dispute over new jail building Source link Appeals court rules against city in dispute over new jail building

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