According to Ken Daley of The Times-Picayune, the Youth Study Center in New Orleans, which is is designated to juvenile detainees awaiting trial as adults, is asking the city to transfer some of its most violent occupants to New Orleans’ adult jail. The Youth Study Center claims it is overcrowded by at least 20 percent.
According to Daley, The Youth Study Center has a capacity for 40 youth detainees but was housing 49 on Monday, February 15. Thirteen of those detainees are awaiting trials as adults for charges of murder, rape, or armed robbery. City officials have asked Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to solve the overcrowding problem by allowing the Youth Study Center to transfer six to eight high-risk detainees (NOLA.com).
However, Gusman has denied the Youth Study Center’s request, citing his own facility’s lack of capacity (NOLA.com).
“We will certainly attempt to work with the city to find alternative housing and think creatively,” said Blake Arcuri, attorney for Gusman’s office (NOLA.com). “But the sheriff will not allow the city to place this responsibility upon him, because he did not create it.”
The reason for the denial is due mostly to the high cost of housing additional inmates, which Arcuri says would cost approximately $125 per inmate per day. Arcuri also expressed the Orleans Parish jail’s reluctance to house more aggressive or violent inmates who are awaiting trial: “When you start talking about some of these people charged with the most violent crimes, they’re going to be in there eight months, a year, two years.”
According to NOLA.com, Arcuri also said the Orleans Justice Center currently has 24 juveniles housed in a youth tier segregated from adult inmates, and that they range from low- and medium-security classifications to some accused of the most violent crimes. Accepting a transfer of six to eight violent detainees would upset the tier’s classification balance and safety, and disrupt the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office ability to provide rehabilitation and educational programming and recreational services to the youth already in its custody (NOLA.com).
This would directly conflict with the purpose of the ordinance that designated the Youth Study Center as a facility for detaining juveniles in the first place, which states that “Orleans Parish Prison continues to be an unsafe environment to house children who are awaiting trial, resulting in physical and emotional abuse.” The ordinance was drawn up last year by District A council member Susan Guidry, who also wrote that “the subjection of children to such an environment is not an appropriate form of punishment for behavioral issues.”
Both the Youth Study Center and Sheriff Gusman are asking for more space in their respective detainment facilities.
Blake Arcuri says, “What we’re finding, once again, is that neither the Youth Study Center nor the Orleans Justice Center has the capacity to house all the people that NOPD arrests. This [ordinance] was another shortsighted decision where city leaders shot from the hip, without considering the long-term ramifications of keeping the number of detainees we have in this city safely in custody.”(NOLA.com)
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