Court meeting could result in compromise on Orleans jail

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A compromise announced Tuesday in federal court in New Orleans will keep the local sheriff in charge of the city’s long-troubled jail.

However, the sheriff has agreed to appoint a new compliance director — from nominees made by inmate advocates, the city of New Orleans and the Justice Department — who will have broad powers over the jail’s management and budget.

In April, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and inmate advocates asked U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to appoint a federal “receiver” to run the lockup. They cited Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s slow progress in implementing reforms required in a 2012 lawsuit settlement. Gusman blamed the problems on a lack of funding from the city.

Gusman has likened the attempt to strip him of his authority to run the jail to an illegal coup and a move to thwart the will of voters.

He scheduled a morning news conference to discuss the compromise.

Hearings on the motion to have the jail placed in “receivership” began late last month with testimony from a court-appointed monitor and others who described jail violence and conditions that contributed to a March suicide.

Gusman was expected to testify at some point, but hearings have been repeatedly postponed since early June. Two people with knowledge of the case confirmed that the parties have been in negotiations. Each spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.

Inmates were moved from old, decaying jail into a new building last September, something the sheriff touted as a factor in improving conditions. But monitors say violence endangering inmates and staffers continues at the new facility.