With reform issues unresolved, opening of New Orleans jail delayed until April at earliest

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NEW ORLEANS — It now looks as though a new $145 million jail in New Orleans — a replacement for an aging and notoriously dangerous jail complex now in use — won't open until April at the earliest.

The opening is now well past the May 2014 opening date once projected. And a federal judge overseeing a reform plan for the jail is doubtful that the new building will be ready even in April, according to The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/15lLbhK).

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said during a Thursday hearing that the new jail won't open until Sheriff Marlin Gusman finds a replacement for a chief corrections deputy who recently resigned.

Africk also noted that the jail, as it was built, cannot accommodate groups of juvenile detainees and dangerous inmates who need to be housed separately from the general population.

"I'm not convinced the jail is going to open before the fall or toward the end of the year," Africk said. "There's no sense opening the jail unless it can be done safely."

Gusman has touted the new jail as perhaps the single most important fix to the wretched conditions and rampant violence that prompted the court-ordered overhaul of the jail, formally known as the Orleans Parish Prison.

Africk is overseeing a consent decree that settled a lawsuit that inmates and the U.S. Justice Department filed against Gusman over jail conditions.

In her latest update, Susan McCampbell, the corrections expert hired to supervise Gusman's progress in meeting the demands of the consent decree, said the new jail's security and fire safety systems have not been completed. Such delays are not unusual, she said, calling the opening of a new correctional facility "an extremely complex undertaking."

Africk made clear Thursday that the mere opening of the new jail won't amount to a panacea for the Sheriff's Office in its mandate to operate a constitutional jail.


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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