NEW ORLEANS – Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has asked Judge Robin Pittman to begin releasing non-violent offenders who have no prior record to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the Orleans Parish jail.
Seven inmates have been isolated after presenting one or more COVID-19 symptom, Gusman said in a letter addressed to Pittman. Tests have been administered to those inmates, but the results have not yet come back.
Several jail employees have also tested positive or have been quarantined after showing symptoms, Gusman said, but he didn’t specify in the letter how many jail staffers have been affected.
“We have been fortunate thus far and have had a lower presumed infection rate among our inmates than other comparative facilities,” Gusman wrote. “However, for this to continue, we need your assistance. Further reduction of the inmate population would also allow us to have open ‘flex’ units to allow rotation of our populations, sanitation of empty units, and further separation of individuals in our custody.”
Gusman said the jail has already been “aggressive” at combatting the spread of coronavirus. Medical staff is monitoring temperatures of inmates daily, and living areas are sanitized frequently.
Those steps may not be enough to completely eradicate the virus from spreading among the inmates.
“I request that the judges of Civil District Court give consideration to releases, even on a temporary basis, of any non-violent individuals without a prior criminal history,” Gusman wrote.
It remains unclear how many current inmates would fit that category and qualify for release if the Civil District judges would agree to Gusman’s proposition.