New Orleans' Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has ordered construction to be halted at the city's new $145 million prison, saying the client, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, is in violation of city codes.
The 433,000-sq-ft facility, which is nearing completion and was originally supposed to open in the summer of 2014, features 1,438 beds and is designed to better serve a growing population. As the prison was being constructed in 2013, the sheriff's office entered into a federal consent decree to improve the facilities, which had been noted for violence, escapes, inmate deaths and poor mental health care.
General contractor McDonnel Group of Metairie, La., broke ground on the facility in September 2011 and worked an advanced sequence with a prefab cell design and extensive building information modeling. As of December 2013, the project had been on target to open in the summer of 2014.
The project has since been delayed multiple times due to budget issues and reports by federal monitors tracking reforms. The most recent delay was in early-June due to problems with the electronic security system. On June 24, the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits deemed the new facility in "plain violation" of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and conditional use permit approved by the City Planning Commission and City Council.
While no fault has been placed on contractors or architects, the notice said the prison's new design didn't provide adequate housing for female and juvenile inmates along with those with medical and mental needs.
Jared Munster, director of the New Orleans Department of Safety & Permits said in a statement that the facility being constructed doesn't address needs discussed during the design and planning phase in 2010 and 2011.
“Therefore, the City of New Orleans is ordering the Sheriff to halt all construction on the project until the City can verify that the Sheriff has properly addressed these vulnerable populations in the new jail facility,” he said.
Sheriff Gusman previously proposed building a separate $85 million facility to house the high-risk inmates. The city argued that the currently under construction Phase II should accommodate all populations and is ordering the Sheriff to submit plans and demonstrate how to do that.