Jones v. Gusman
Prisoners at the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana often endured rampant violence, multiple sexual assaults and neglect. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman, charging the sheriff’s indifference created the brutal and inhumane conditions at the jail.
The federal complaint describes a facility where violence and widespread contraband – including knives and drugs – are the norm. It also notes the facility is understaffed and that deputies are poorly trained and supervised – often complicit in the abuses suffered by the prisoners.
Prisoners with mental illness endured abusive treatment, including a denial of mental health services that leave them extremely vulnerable to physical attacks. People in need of mental health treatment or protection from suicide were held practically naked in overcrowded cells that reeked of human waste.
The SPLC’s legal filings are accompanied by 19 affidavits from plaintiffs and other individuals who experienced the abusive conditions at the jail. Their statements described rape, abuse and poorly trained guards, who not only fail to prevent violence but instigate it.
The SPLC previously raised concerns about the safety of prisoners at the jail after a transsexual inmate was repeatedly raped and tortured. The inmate, who tested negative for the HIV virus when she entered the jail, later tested positive for the virus after enduring the repeated rapes. The SPLC demanded that the sheriff take steps to protect the woman.