After instituting new services last spring to help judges know more about the risk with each defendant, the number of inmates awaiting trial dropped by an average of 165 a day – an annual rate of savings to the city of $1.4 million. But, the program is now in danger of budget cuts.
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Before hurricane Katrina, the sprawling Orleans Parish Prison complex had 7,524 beds – on average 6,500 of them occupied each day – making it the ninth-largest jail in the nation, and far out of proportion to the city's size. But the jail's 12 buildings were heavily damaged by the storm and floodwaters, so it became a prime target of those who believed the entire justice system could be reinvented along with the jail.
In 2010, a task force appointed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu decided that jail size could drive reform and recommended the approval of a smaller facility, with 1,438 beds.
"A smaller jail forces people to innovate," Derwyn Bunton, task force member and then-chief public defender said when the city council approved the jail early last year, concurring with the task force's recommendations that the jail buildings be closed and the new proposed 1,438-bed jail be a stand-alone facility.