The $145 million facility was opened two years ago, but it already exceeds its capacity. “Essentially, we’re trying to fit 1,500 inmates in a facility that can only house 1,294,” said one official.
The debate over whether New Orleans’ two-year-old, $145 million jail is big enough to house the city’s inmate population continued this week with a Metropolitan Crime Commission report saying inmate totals continue to exceed the new jail’s capacity, reports Nola.com. City leaders must decide whether they want to commit to housing inmates at another facility in New Orleans or continue the expensive practice of housing them out of parish, said Commission President Rafael Goyeneche. “Essentially, we’re trying to fit 1,500 inmates in a facility that can only house 1,294,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and inmate advocates say continued efforts to reduce the current and future jail population through criminal justice reforms make the need for more space unnecessary. “The question shouldn’t be how many beds we need for the people we house, but rather who should we be housing and what do we need to do that,” said Marjorie Esman, director of the ACLU in Louisiana. The number of inmates in custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has decreased since the watchdog organization published its last report on the jail’s population, in 2015. The percentage of inmates jailed in connection with more serious charges, like violent felonies, has increased in that same time.