The American Civil Liberties Union today submitted a request to Sheriff Marlin Gusman seeking public records documenting the studies he has generated or commissioned that justify his request for more than twice the number of jail beds than was recommended by a national expert using the Sheriff's own data.
On November 16, 2010, the Criminal Justice Working Group appointed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu recommended authorization of a new Parish Prison facility to replace the existing Templeman III and IV sites, consisting of no more than 1438 prison beds. This figure was based in large part on a study commissioned by national expert Dr. James Austin, as well as public comments about the need to bring Orleans Parish in line with national best practices in prison reform.
Still unresolved is the ultimate use of city-owned property at Templeman I and II, and whether it will be used to construct additional beds beyond the 1438 recommended by the Working Group. With the Working Group continuing to address that issue, Sheriff Gusman continues to resist the recommended cap of 1438 beds.
"Sheriff Gusman insists that he needs additional prison beds despite the expert recommendations and the conclusion of the Working Group," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Yet he has never revealed the basis for his claims that 1438 beds is not enough. He should tell the public why the conclusions of the expert retained by the City are wrong, and why the recommendation of Working Group appointed by the Mayor should be disregarded."
Among other things, the ACLU asks for studies, reports, or data in the Sheriff's possession that would identify an optimal size of the detention facilities. "The Working Group continues to meet, and must have access to all of the available information to make its final decision," Esman said. "We continue to seek the basis for Gusman's claims that he needs more jail beds, because the people of New Orleans need to know that the decisions will be made based on data and expert recommendations."
A copy of the ACLU's request is available online here.