The Deadbeat Dad of New Orleans…

Family night? Oh uh, sorry, I got a thing....
Family night? Oh uh, sorry, I got a thing…

We’ve all heard the term. Typically it’ll refer to a parent who ignores his children, leaves them behind, is aware of, but does little to nothing to care for those in his charge, regardless of consequence. Well, the city of New Orleans has one of the worst deadbeat dads in history and his name is Sheriff Marlin N Gusman and his charges all occupy New Orleans Parish Prison. By his title of Sheriff, it is his responsibility to ensure the inmates at OPP have their basic needs met, have medical and mental health care and are safe from abuse by both other prisoners and the prison staff and for that matter, his prison staff too should not meet with extraneous violence as a result of the Sheriff’s actions or more presciently, what appears to be his inaction.

By any standard, Gusman is a failure, a deadbeat dad who, federal consent decree or not, seems perfectly (content) unwilling to live up to his parental responsibilities.

From an article in the Advocate by Jim Mustian:

“The outside expert monitoring a court-ordered plan to reform Orleans Parish Prison offered a blistering critique Tuesday of Sheriff Marlin Gusman, blaming the sluggish pace of change at the jail on a lack of leadership and initiative within the Sheriff’s Office.

The expert, Susan W. McCampbell, said she has rejected Gusman’s repeated excuse that city officials haven’t given him enough money to implement a federal consent decree intended to reverse deplorable conditions at OPP that have festered for years.

“The question has been posed to me several times whether it’s an issue of leadership or resources that continues to result in the Sheriff’s Office not moving forward with significant changes,” McCampbell said by phone during a status conference in U.S. District Court. “I really am now believing it’s a leadership issue — not a resource issue.””

Really, well, come on now, how bad could it actually be?

McCampbell added, “The jail is not safe…this isn’t a philosophical conversation about how to move forward. This is an in-your-face, happening, bad, everyday thing going on in the jail.”

So it’s bad then…but that’s just one expert right? I mean there are still in this day and age a couple scientists claiming climate change isn’t happening too. Course, when McCampbell went on to apologize for her frustrations, the US District Judge Lance Africk both empathized and agreed with her and this is the guy in charge of overseeing the consent decree.

Right…bad.

But still, that’s only two people and even deadbeat dads have their defenders which is why I’m sure that Katie Schwartzman, an attorney from the McCarthur Justice Center will correct all of this information, give us the real facts on the case, put us all firmly back in the no-spin zone…and this is precisely what she did when she said in her statement, “The sheriff has been called upon to fix the jail for years…in that time, there have been countless stabbings, sexual assaults and mental-health crises. The violence in our jail spills over into our streets and touches thousands of members of our community. This is not theoretical, it is not hyperbole or academic — people have died in our jail.”

Well, fuck me then.

So that’s three…but Sheriff Gusman, he must have a reasonable explanation for all this, some sort of detailed response with maybe a side of slight contrition to the court for what appears to be a horrible lack of progress in essentially, doing his job. What say you Sheriff types? Let us have it! Tell these bleeding hearts how wrong they are!

“The Sheriff’s Office is committed to moving forward and working with the monitors,” said Sheriff’s spokesman Philip Stelly.

Okay.

That was underwhelming.

Fuck me twice, I guess…

And allow me to be skeptical, because from what I read this department seems best at stalling, then blaming Landrieu, claiming a lack of funds while at the same time refusing to be transparent about the funds already received. Then Gusman offers up expensive solutions to problems of his own creation…case in point, you know how that new jail is supposed to solve so much when it comes to the consent decree? Debatable, but it appears his plans are already creating new ones, like how is it the jail wasn’t designed to house acutely mentally ill inmates? Bit of a design flaw there, and for a $145 million dollar price tag it seems reasonable to expect Gusman’s new jail to have zero design flaws. What gives? I’m assuming Marlin Gusman pays attention to trends which might affect his job, his jail and his responsibilities but maybe not…because if he did, he should be aware that as funds have dried up nationwide for mental health services, jails and prisons are unfortunately becoming the new inpatient hospitals in our current mental health system. Maybe this is something Gusman should have accounted for when spending $145 million dollars for his new fucking jail. And then back to Gusman’s bullshit solution: just relocate mentally ill inmates to a state prison in St. Gabriel. Right, because that’s obviously far less expensive (in transportation costs alone) than just designing your new jail to suit the needs of your own city and department.

Also mentioned in Mustian’s article: this month three jail deputies were stabbed by an acutely mentally ill inmate who was not even housed in the current jail’s psychiatric tier.

Yep.

And that’s not the only problem with this jail, and with the snails pace at complying with the decree. The high incident of violence and poor treatment of inmates is a really bad fucking way to go about rehabilitation, if anything because inmates are people and deserving of certain basic rights and met needs, even in jail…safety being one of the most important. Some on the outside though, politicians especially might disagree with this, instead opting to go all tough on crime and dismissing the prisoners’ humanity, dismissing the violence and making jokes about rape…jokes, all of which are nothing more than easy bumper-stickers and platitudes that crumble in the face of real blood spilled on a concrete floor or the painful reality of distraught loved ones on the outside reacting to the abuse or death of their child, father, husband or other member of their family. Furthermore, another real truth the tough on crime types should consider is that all those inmates thrown into the Thunderdome before they turn their back, those inmates do eventually get released back into the city, traumatized and with few options. But let’s say you really don’t care about those incarcerated at all. Do you do care about the prison staff? A dangerous jail is also dangerous to guards and as I said before, everyone eventually gets back to their community, both inmates and staff and the community gets impacted directly or indirectly by this violence. Nobody gets to live in a bubble. A mentally ill individual who is further terrorized can struggle far more reintegrating into society, especially with substandard treatment and no resources, than one who is treated humanely. Also, when outside divisions get brought to life inside the jail by way of violence, that violence will often then perpetuate on the outside. When the very concept of humanity is disregarded, when inmates feel under siege, unsafe and are shown by the system how little control they have over their life, or may ever have, this doesn’t bode well for the inmates, their families and anyone who helps them try to pick up the pieces upon release. The staff too has to live with what they’ve seen and experienced, and that is a hard life, with consequences.

And all of the inaction leading to this, all of this chaos is squarely on the plate of the person hired to prevent it: Marlin Gusman.

Even with a consent decree hanging over his head, it seems Gusman’s best skill set is making excuses about why he hasn’t done much of anything to resolve this mess. He needs to take more responsibility, start being present, start taking care of the inmates and the prison staff. This is his job. He ran for this job. His staff, the inmates, all of their families and the community at large are owed more than just another deadbeat dad, ducking the decree and looking the other way while blaming everyone else for why he isn’t handling his own fucking business. Stop fighting with Landrieu. If you don’t have the funds as you say, open the books and show everyone where the money’s going. Hire people who know how to run a jail and fully staff your department, because an understaffed jail is really fucking dangerous for both the inmates and the staff you do have. Recognize that inmate safety and resources upon discharge are keys in the fight against recidivism. Start acting like you’re taking this seriously and recognize an overall, basic truth: the safer the jail, the safer the city of New Orleans.

Read the article:

Jail Monitor Blasts Gusman for Lack of Progress at OPP

Have a nice day.

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An OPP Bedtime Story…

Peter Falk demonstrating a rehabilitative choke-hold...
Peter Falk demonstrating a rehabilitative choke-hold…

Once upon a time, there was a tween named Billy in New Orleans, not yet a teenager, but no longer a small boy.

He’d been having a difficult life, but his mother taught him the best she could. Billy loved his mother and Billy loved his house. Billy loved his friends and Billy loved his faithful dog, Rex, more than anything.

One day, after school, where he studied good and hard, he realized he would need some money to buy tasty snacks for Rex, but he didn’t have any money. What was Billy going to do? Billy thought long and hard about this and walked all over New Orleans trying to find a job cleaning pots and pans so he could buy Rex the snacks that made Rex as happy as Billy.

But Billy was treated bad by the people he asked for a job. Billy tried really hard, but there were very few jobs and nobody hired Billy.

Billy really liked to see Rex happy and Billy didn’t know what else to do so finally, Billy did what he felt he had to do.

Billy sold crack, hot solids around his school and very soon, Rex had more snacks than he could eat and everything was fine. Rex was very happy. And this made Billy happy, but when Billy’s mom found out Billy’s mom was really angry.

“You can’t sell crack!” Billy’s mom yelled, “Your cousin and dad are in prison for misbehaving like that already!”

Billy was sad and soon Rex ran out of snacks.

So Billy didn’t stop. Billy’s friends didn’t want him to stop and Rex didn’t want Billy to stop either.

One day, when Billy was making money, he was stopped by Officer Friendly. Officer Friendly was really angry at Billy too, more angry than Billy’s mom. He slapped Billy. He punched Billy. He held a gun to Billy’s head and begged Billy to give him a reason, but Billy didn’t. He had watched what happened in his neighborhood very closely and he knew that Officer Friendly wasn’t really friendly.

Officer Friendly said, “We’re going to take you to a new school, where you can be rehabilitated.”

“What’s rehabilitation?” Billy asked.

“You’ll see,” said Officer Friendly.

So Billy went to his new school and he didn’t get to go home at night either. He had to sleep there and eat there and Rex was not allowed to visit. Soon, Billy found out that his new school didn’t even have classes and Billy knew he was falling behind those people at regular schools.

Billy was sad.

On the fourth night at his new school, two older boys beat the shit out of Billy while a teacher looked on and then walked away. Billy didn’t understand why the teacher didn’t protect him. Two nights later, another teacher gave two older kids crack, weed and brown powder and when they all saw Billy watching them. They beat up Billy again. This teacher walked away too.

Billy was angry.

Billy didn’t like getting beat up at his new school and he didn’t understand why he had to be rehabilitated when the teachers were doing what Billy had done to buy Rex his snacks. Billy decided he needed to make friends with one of the teachers so he could get a shiv, to protect himself, but that night before Billy could get his shiv another older boy attacked him while he was sleeping and pulled down Billy’s pants.

Billy was humiliated.

Billy had never beaten anyone up before, but now after being rehabilitated, Billy was afraid, sad, angry and humiliated. Billy decided he not only needed a shiv, he needed new friends. So he got new friends at the new school and Billy’s new friends taught Billy to fight. Then one of Billy’s new teachers gave Billy a shiv and later that day placed bets on Billy’s fights. He didn’t give Billy any of the money he won, but he did promise to buy Rex some snacks.

Billy thanked him, but Billy really didn’t give a fuck about Rex anymore.

What Billy cared about now was where to hide at the new school so he wouldn’t be on camera when he beat up the other students. Billy wanted to learn which teachers would look away when he used his shiv, but Billy soon found out that nobody cared when he used his shiv. Then Billy wanted to get in on the drug trade, on the guns and the graft at his new school and in time Billy got good and rehabilitated, so rehabilitated Billy didn’t give a fuck about nobody or nothing anymore.

One day, the Headmaster of the school deemed Billy a total success and just like that, Billy was free.

Free and much more skilled, much more angry and though Billy didn’t know it, much more traumatized than Billy had ever been before…and Billy didn’t go home. Billy found friends of his new friends at the school and moved in with them. They liked Billy and Billy liked hurting the people Billy’s new friends didn’t like. It made Billy feel like he belonged.

He liked it so much, Billy didn’t concern himself too much if other people got hurt in the process.

Soon enough, Billy did what most people considered to be a really fucked up thing to do and some people got hurt really bad, but Billy shrugged. Billy was just doing what he had to do, what he knew how to do, what he had learned to do.

Officer Friendly grabbed Billy two days later and told him he would have to go back to get more rehabilitation.

Billy was really angry and really scared, so much so that it all just made Billy feel vaguely numb. Billy didn’t want to show all his crazy feelings so he just shrugged and said to Officer Friendly, “New school, old school. All the same to me motherfucker.”

And just like that, Officer Friendly and Billy rode off into the sunset, breathing in lead from the surrounding environment.

The moral of the story?

Whereas I won’t say tragedies like the second line shooting and the high murder rate in New Orleans are a direct result of Gusman’s fucked up jail and its utter disregard for inmate safety, the idea that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other is a bunch of conservative law and order bullshit focused on easy answers to problems that don’t go away. Climates are created by lack of concern. Trauma often leads to more violence. There are a hundred and one reasons why people can turn, but when people get arrested out of an unforgiving environment and are remanded to ones even harsher, the creeping desperation can blow up and shut all systems down. If there’s no rehabilitation to be had, and very little supportive service or education…not to mention a lack of housing upon release, or jobs, or training, or any sort of real mental health assistance, what can we expect to happen when people leave OPP and elsewhere?

Simply put, little good.

Have a nice day.

From Critical Resistance on Sheriff Gusman and the new OPP…

5800 beds?

Worth a look…$250,000,000 on a new prison, yet Charity Hospital remains closed…what’s the intended message?

From Critical Resistance in New Orleans:

New Orleans Sheriff Marlon Gusman and other city officials are trying to push forward the expansion of the notorious Orleans Parish Prison(OPP) which would add 5,800 new beds, extend the prison 9-10 city blocks, and cost $250 million. Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) is already the largest per capita county jail of any major US city, while resources for housing, education, job training, and healthcare continue to be cut or remain deeply underfunded.

In an effort to stop construction and shrink the prison system in the city, CR-NOLA has been working nonstop with allies and community member, trying to build people power in order to shift vital resources away from the PIC and toward building thriving, sustainable, self-determined communities.

Click here to watch the video and get contact information for Critical Resistance – New Orleans…

Have a nice day.