Prison Shocker: Videos of New Orleans Jail Show Rampant Drug Use, Gun Play And Drinking

It would appear to be an open and shut case. Videos of conditions in the New Orleans Parish Prison shown in federal court yesterday showed deplorable, dangerous and out-of-control conditions, including inmates shooting up, drinking beer, and one shooting and waving a loaded gun. Other videos have shown inmates wandering around Bourbon Street, telling beat cops that they are supposed to be in jail, and sexual misconduct in plain views of deputies. Manuel David Romero testified that one out of every three or four inmates has been assaulted in the prison—32 have been stabbed, and 698 have been otherwise, which is the highest number he has ever seen in his long career in corrections. "I have not seen numbers this large," Romero told the Times Picayune. "What it tells you is, it's basically a total lack of security program."

With no classification system to separate violent from non-violent offenders, and deputies who appear to freely allow contraband, sexual assault, gambling and prisoners to come and go, it's no wonder the inmates feel unsafe. Overcrowded, trash-strewn cells are par for the course.

To address the problem, the U.S. Department of Justice joined with the Southern Poverty Law Center to bring a class action suit against New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Last December, the sheriff, law center and federal officials said they had reached an agreement to clean up conitions. At stake now is whether that agreement will rise to the level of becoming a consent decree, which is legally binding.

The City of New Orleans is fighting the decree on the grounds that it would be ruinous to the city's budget, although Mayor Mitch Landrieu agrees that the videos are "outrageous." He would rather see the federal judge put the jails into receivership.

Meanwhile, some of the inmates have been seen wandering the streets, and a few more have died in prison. 

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