If Orleans Parish Prison is capped at 1,438 beds, down from the current 3,500, where will the extra inmates go? With changes in pretrial detention policies, some will likely be awaiting their court dates at home instead of stuck behind bars. Advocates for a smaller jail also hope that the hundreds of convicted criminals serving time at OPP will be shipped to state prisons, where they can receive job training and other programs not available at local prisons.
But the state system, already full to capacity, cannot absorb an influx from New Orleans. Any overflow inmates will be shipped to rural sheriffs hundreds of miles from home, where they will help finance law enforcement and enrich private investors. Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has been engaged in a long-running battle with criminal-justice activists over the size of the new prison being built with FEMA dollars after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the existing facility.