ACLU Seeks FEMA Records Related To Proposed Expansion Of Orleans Parish Prison
NEW ORLEANS, LA - The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
to determine what resources it has allocated to the proposed expansion
of the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP).
Despite his plans to dramatically expand the capacity of OPP to 5,800
prisoners, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has provided no
documents showing the funding that he says is committed to the project.
Although Sheriff Gusman asserts that the project will be underwritten by
FEMA, he has never disclosed the extent of FEMA funds or the conditions
imposed upon those funds.
"There is a massive expansion planned for OPP yet the public has no idea
where the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to expand the prison
is coming from," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of
Louisiana. "We need a better understanding of the source of the funds,
how much the City of New Orleans will have to pay, and whether there are
better ways to put this kind of money to use. To do that we need more
Among other things, the ACLU's FOIA request seeks the disclosure of any
plans or proposals concerning the demolition, rebuilding, repair or
expansion of OPP and any documents related to funds FEMA has allocated
or disbursed for such projects as well as how the use of those funds
might be restricted.
The proposed new size of OPP would be large enough to incarcerate one
out of every 60 residents of New Orleans. Yet outside experts have shown
that the jail's size could easily be reduced if New Orleans were to
adopt commonsense criminal justice policies like expanding pre-trial
release options, providing community service sentencing, and setting
more appropriate and cost-effective sanctions for minor municipal
New Orleans residents have expressed mounting concerns during the past
year about whether this massive expansion of OPP is warranted. These
concerns prompted the New Orleans City Council to postpone in July final
approval of Gusman's expansion plans until a special working group
convened by Mayor Mitch Landrieu determines the optimal size for OPP.
The working group is expected to release its findings in late November.
"Independent scrutiny of Sheriff Gusman's plans is vital to this policy
debate," Esman said. "There is a lot of essential information about the
planned expansion of OPP that we don't have. An important component is
where the money will come from and whether there are strings attached to
it. At a time when the City of New Orleans is struggling for resources,
the public deserves to know how much this will cost. Now may be the
final window of opportunity to access that information."
A copy of the ACLU's FOIA request is available online at:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.