NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU Foundation of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit against the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, for failure to respond to a public records request. The request was made in July 2015.
Under Louisiana’s Public Records Act, the ACLU had asked for “Documents sufficient to show the number of acutely mentally ill inmates currently housed at Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) or under the custodial control of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. ‘Acutely mentally ill’ means those inmates determined to require special housing as a result of their mental illness.” In addition, the PRA request asked for documents concerning the average daily population of acutely mentally ill inmates at OPP.
Sheriff Gusman has repeatedly stated that the new facilities at OPP need to be larger to accommodate “acute mentally ill inmates.” The request was designed to find out how may such inmates are at the prison, to better evaluate the Sheriff’s claims.
“Despite his repeated insistence that he needs more space for mentally ill inmates, he has never documented the numbers of those inmates,” said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana. “The public has a right to know whether this is a real need based on medical needs of the prison population, and the Sheriff should release that information without being sued.”
The case is pending in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The ACLU Foundation of Louisiana is represented by attorney Michael T. Tusa, Jr. of Sutton, Alker & Rather, LLC in Mandeville, LA.