As some of you regular readers of this site know, I write for the New York Times sports page on the side, and while digging around for a story I’m working on about a former boxer who’s now in prison for life, I recently spoke to a guy who was one of the aforementioned boxer’s friends behind bars. Anyway, in the course of talking about the general conditions of life in the clink, the guy mentioned that the time he once spent in the New Orleans Parish Prison was far worse than the time he spent in Angola State Prison.
Admittedly, I was a little skeptical. Sure, I’ve heard horror stories about OPP, but there’s no way it could be worse than one of the most notorious prisons is America, right? RIGHT?
Well, yesterday a video taken inside OPP emerged that seems to confirm what that guy told me. Worse, life inside Orleans Parish Prison in its totality sounds like a bad stereotype of life behind bars you’d see portrayed in movies and on television, complete with frequent shankings, rampant drug use, little to no guard supervision, gambling, etc.
After courtroom fireworks Tuesday morning from a video depicting drug use, gunplay and beer drinking by inmates inside the Orleans Parish jail complex, and one video showing an inmate hanging out on Bourbon Street, testimony in the week-long hearing over a proposed jail reform package turned to a corrections expert who called inmate violence in the jail the worst he’s seen.
The testimony from Manuel David Romero, an expert for the U.S. Department of Justice, echoed the testimony Monday from another expert for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents inmates in the case.
Romero, former deputy secretary of the New Mexico prison system, reported a wide array of lapses in the jail facility during two visits last year, in April and December. Those lapses included inmates engaging in “sexual misconduct” in plain view of deputies who did nothing, Romero reported.
Also among the facts that emerged during his testimony was that 32 inmates suffered stab wounds in the jail facility last year. There also were 698 prisoner assaults, one for every three to four inmates.
“I have not seen numbers this large,” Romero said.
Romero was asked to comment on the video footage, which showed inmates playing cash dice games, drinking Budweiser, unloading what appeared to be a Glock handgun, and one inmate shooting drugs into his arm.
No sheriff’s deputies were in sight. How the gun got into the jail — never mind the beer, drugs and video recorder — and how the inmate got out to roam Bourbon Street, remained in doubt.
Now here is the video that everyone in New Orleans is talking about today. WARNING: it’s not for the squeamish.