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Mon June 10, 2013

Jail Funding Battle Heads To Federal Court

A federal judge will hear arguments over the consent decree designed to reform the New Orleans jail.

The New Orleans criminal justice system will be center stage at federal court proceedings set to begin this week. The city argues it can’t pay for fixing the police department and jail at the same time.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk is set to begin a hearing today that will ultimately determine how much it will cost to fix the jail and who picks up the tab.

The city will argue that Sheriff Marlin Gusman has enough money to operate a jail to constitutional standards.

Gusman maintains the city isn’t giving him enough money.

The city counters that it can’t keep track of the money it provides because the jail budget is not transparent.

Judge Africk ruled last week that the jail is a “stain on the community.”

Gusman signed a consent decree with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Justice Department that outlines reforms.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the city can’t afford the cost of fixing the jail while also complying with another consent decree to reform the police department.

The judge is expected to ask the sheriff to explain his budgeting, and decide in August how much the jail consent decree will cost and who should be in charge of the funds.

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