Federal Judge Weighs Jail Consent Decree

Aug 8, 2013

A federal judge is deciding how New Orleans will pay for reforming its troubled jail. The price tag will be split between the city and sheriff.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk is reviewing testimony given over two days this week. The Department of Justice and Southern Poverty Law Center are defending the consent decree that outlines reforms. The City of New Orleans is arguing that it can’t afford the $7 million a year it estimates the changes will cost, and the sheriff says it could cost as much as $23 million a year.

An official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency testified the city has about $50 million left in unspent Hurricane Katrina funds for jail repairs. So does the sheriff. That money could be used for structural improvements, but not operating costs.

Judge Africk is set to consider next month how much the total bill will be once the new 1400-bed jail opens next year.