There’s going to be a new jailhouse in New Orleans. We can’t seem to agree on how big it should be. The deputy mayor Mr. Kopplin led a group that determined the size of the jail should be 1438 beds. Sheriff Marlon Gusman says he needs 3200 beds. I think Mayor Landrieu is leaning more to Sheriff Gusman’s side on this one and things the jail should be bigger as well. If I were a betting man I would put my money on a number closer to the 3200 because we are going for the bigger and better theme these days. Right now there’s blocks of property being torn down in the middle of the city for a new hospital and that’s just for the parking space. Why wouldn’t we build the biggest jail possible? Plus, we like locking people up in New Orleans. If it’s a real good Mardi Gras season we can get at least 2500 tourists in there with no problem.
If I had a vote I would want the jail to be about 500 beds and maybe another 200 to hold people until they went to court after being arrested. All we need room for is people who commit violent crimes, sexual assaults and anything against children. Maybe if we had a jail that small people would get serious about coming up with strategies to change the circumstances that lead to so many people being arrested in the first place. Besides, there’s a bunch of inmates in parish prison now and crime keeps happening. When I see a number like 3200 beds I think about 3000 black men being locked up. New Orleans court isn’t the most diverse place in the world when it comes to defendants. There’s got to be a better way to spend that money on new programs that will do more to help those guys be productive citizens and make the city safer instead of giving them a new jail cell and more space to waste the prime of their lives away. I know we are spending money that was allocated specifically for a prison but there has to be a way to do something different and creative with that space.
I’m sure everyone involved knows that already. There’s just the small issue of having so much money to spend on a facility. The planners have to get their cut. The consultants are going to want some of that. Then there’s the construction company and contractors who need to stick their hands in. I’m sure I’ll be seeing construction crews full of illegal immigrants and out of state license plates thinking to myself how funny it is that we are building a jail for the city of New Orleans and it’s future occupants didn’t even get a chance to make some money building it. When I think about some of the things that have went on in the redevelopment of this city the 3200 bed plan might actually be conservative. I should be happy the new prison complex doesn’t stretch all the way to Hollygrove.