The Orleans Parish sheriff has asked state police to investigate a jail death that the coroner says was homicide.

State Police chief Colonel Mike Edmonson says he will meet with Sheriff Marlin Gusman today to decide what to do.

Authorities have said 40-year-old Willie Lee collapsed and died within 90 minutes of a fight with another inmate March 23.

Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse said in a statement last week that Lee had a heart attack, but his death was homicide caused by a fight between inmates.

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Louisiana is one of the only states that has not cut down on incarceration rates over the last five years, the Times-Picayune reports.

A new Pew report says that most states have managed to cut their imprisonment and crime rates in that time, but that's not true of Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate of any state.

Overall, the U.S. imprisonment rate has gone down 6 percent since 2008, but Louisiana's has stayed flat during that time period.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is asking the governor to pull state inmates from Orleans Parish Prison. He says it could save tens of millions of dollars on a new jail.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office tells The New Orleans Advocate that the jail holds 380 state inmates. Times-Picayune reports the sheriff's office was paid almost $7 million last year to house state inmates.

A state corrections official tells The Advocate that the mayor "should work with the sheriff on this local issue."

Officials will review Landrieu's request.

Franklin Reyes / AP

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is starting to serve his 10-year sentence for corruption. Two major players in the scheme that landed him behind bars are now through the court process.

A suspect in a deadly drive-by shooting in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward got into a fight with another inmate on his first day inside Orleans Parish Prison.

Court records show Blair Taylor, one of two men police say opened fire Aug. 10 on a crowd of mostly women and children, was attacked by another inmate last Thursday — hours after being booked on murder charges.

spirit of america /

On a per-capita basis, Louisiana leads the nation in the number of people behind bars. A diverse group of business and religious leaders have come together to support laws that could lower the state’s incarceration rates.

In this latest installment of the continuing WWNO and WYES series on criminal justice reform, Marcia Kavanaugh looks into how the Louisiana Smart on Crime initiative fared in this past legislative session.

Some red states like Louisiana and Texas have emerged as leaders in a new movement: to divert offenders from prisons and into drug treatment, work release and other incarceration alternatives.

By most counts, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. In recent years, sentencing reformers in the capital, Baton Rouge, have loosened some mandatory minimum sentences and have made parole slightly easier for offenders to get.

But as reformers in Louisiana push for change, they're also running into stiffening resistance — especially from local prosecutors.


WYES continues its ongoing initiative exploring progress rebuilding a safer, stronger, smarter city post-Katrina.

The WWNO/ WYES series on Orleans Criminal Justice System reform takes an in-depth look into the NOPD and Orleans Parish Jail federal consent decrees in this report by WYES Community Projects Producer, Marcia Kavanaugh.

The one hour video was produced by Paula Pendarvis, narrated by WYES Community Projects Producer Marcia Kavanaugh, with editing and creative direction by WYES producer Tom Gregory.

 If you can’t get lethal injection drugs, how do you impose the death penalty?

"We have the death sentence. Whether some of you agree with that or disagree with it, that's what we have,” said House Criminal Justice committee chairman Joe Lopinto. “If we're going to have that we need to be able, as a state, to follow through with that order."

Bart Everson / Flickr

Lawyers for the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman have reached an agreement, for now, on how to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to reform the city’s violent jail.

The sheriff’s office is under federal court order to improve conditions at the jail.

Today’s agreement covers about one-quarter of nearly $1.9 million provided last year for extra security, medical workers and pay raises for staff at the current jail.

The remaining money will be used to look at numerous other issues, like plans for a new jail set to open later this year.