The Latest: Suicide risks still a problem at Orleans jail

AP News
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Posted: May 25, 2016 5:58 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on a move to have a federal court appoint a third party to run the New Orleans jail (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

A mental health expert discussing an inmate's suicide last March at New Orleans' new jail says the risk of inmate suicide is still present at the facility.

Dr. Raymond Patterson testified Wednesday at a federal court hearing on whether an independent third party should take control of the jail from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

Cleveland Tumblin hanged himself in a jail shower in March. Patterson said shower doors that locked from the inside have since been removed. But Patterson testified that brackets and clothing hooks that inmates could use to hang themselves remain. And, he said, methods of evaluating and observing potentially suicidal inmates still need work.

The hearing is expected to conclude Friday. It was unclear when U.S. District Judge Lance Africk would rule.

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3:30 p.m.

A lawyer for the New Orleans sheriff is challenging a corrections expert's assertion that the sheriff and his staff "have no clue" how to operate the city's new jail.

Susan McCampbell made the remark Wednesday, during hearings on whether Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman should be stripped of his authority to run the lockup. Gusman lawyer James Williams, while questioning McCampbell, said the sheriff has corrections professionals and experts to help him.

And he drew one concession from McCampbell regarding the jail's current corrections chief, Carmen DeSadier (deh-SAH-dih-ehr), who was hired in April.

While not changing her assertion that the sheriff's staff currently lacks expertise and knowledge about running the jail, McCampbell said of DeSadier: "She has a clue."

The hearings are expected to continue through Friday.

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11:45 a.m.

A lawyer for the New Orleans sheriff is pointing to low salaries for deputies and funding disputes with the city government as he works to counter an expert's testimony that the sheriff's staff has "no clue" how to operate the city jail.

James Williams was questioning court-appointed prison monitor Susan McCampbell on Wednesday. It was opening day of a hearing on whether the jail run by Sheriff Marlin Gusman should be placed in the hands of an independent third party. The Justice Department and inmate advocates want the jail placed in federal "receivership," saying Gusman has made little progress in complying with a 2013 court-backed agreement for jail reforms.

Williams insisted there are signs of progress, including the appointment of a new chief of corrections at the jail.

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10 a.m.

A court-appointed prison monitor says staffers at the New Orleans jail that opened last September "just have no clue" of how to run it.

Susan McCampbell's remarks came on opening day of a federal court hearing on whether an independent third party should be placed in charge of the jail instead of Sheriff Marlin Gusman. McCampbell described Gusman as passionate in his will to improve jail conditions. But, she said, the Sheriff's Office lacks knowledge of how to do so.

The result, McCampbell said, is continued violence endangering inmates and staff.

Gusman blames a lack of funding from the city for many of the prison's woes.

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8:30 a.m.

Demonstrators who want a federal judge to strip the local sheriff of his authority to run the New Orleans jail gathered outside a federal courthouse ahead of a hearing on the issue.

Roughly two dozen supporters of "receivership" for the violence-plagued jail rallied outside the federal courthouse Wednesday as the hearing was getting underway. A day earlier, Sheriff Marlin Gusman's supporters gathered outside the jail to speak against receivership.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk ordered the gathering to hear arguments on whether he should appoint a federal receiver to operate the long-troubled jail. The U.S. Justice Department and inmate advocates are urging such a move.

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8 a.m.

A federal judge is set to hear arguments on whether he should take the drastic step of stripping an elected sheriff of his authority to run the violence-plagued New Orleans jail.

The U.S. Justice Department and inmate advocates want U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to appoint a third party, known as a "receiver," to run the jail.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman's lawyers liken the move to an illegal coup attempt that would thwart the will of voters who elected him.

Gusman blames New Orleans city officials for failing to adequately fund the lockup. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration supports the move to appoint a "receiver" to run the jail. Landrieu has been critical of Gusman's jail management.

Hearings open in Africk's court Wednesday morning and were expected to stretch into Thursday.