Although a judge found that conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison are unconstitutionally cruel and unusual, federal limits mean the prison is not likely to be reformed into a safe and humane institution anytime soon, Professor Michael Avery wrote in an editorial in The Lens.
There is no doubt that the prison is too large, it is understaffed, filthy and dangerous. In 2013, a federal judge took over jurisdiction over the jail as a result of a federal consent decree between the sheriff, the prisoners who sued and the Department of Justice.
However, a federal prison statute passed in 1996 drastically limits the tools available to a federal judge to make changes at a local prison. For example, the judge does not have the power to release prisoners absent overcrowding, which is not the case here.
Avery points to a number of potential solutions, which he also says are unlikely to be undertaken for political reasons. For more of his analysis, read the editorial here.
Avery is a professor of constitutional law at Suffolk Law School in Boston and co-author of Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation, a leading treatise on civil rights law.
The Lens is a nonprofit news website focused on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.