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Temporary jail tents at OPP being torn down, inmates moved, for new facility

Inside of one of eight Orleans Parish Prison temporary housing units in the process of being torn down to make way for a new jail facility (Della Hasselle, MidCityMessenger.com)

“Tent City,” the temporary jail facility created after Hurricane Katrina, is being torn down to make way for the new Orleans Parish Prison building.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced Tuesday that four of the eight tents have already begun demolition, and that the other four would be torn down soon.

Indeed, as Gusman made his announcement, heavy machinery chugged away at the abandoned Tent City site. Inside one of the tents, all that remained amidst rubble was a table near the center of the sprung structure.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” Gusman said, about the new state-of-the-art jail facility that’s slowly encroaching upon the abandoned Tent City as more progress is made on its completion.

Tent City being demolished as the new OPP facility is being built behind it (Della Hasselle, MidCityMessenger.com)

“The building was so doggone close you could spit on it,” Gusman added. “We’re making a lot of progress.”

The new facility is expected to be complete at the end of May, he said.

Tent City, which was erected in 2006, was always meant to be temporary, Gusman added. All prisoners that once occupied the eight tents have been moved to other facilities, his staff confirmed Tuesday.

The eight tents held about 80 to 85 prisoners each, Gusman said, adding that Orleans Parish Prison currently houses about 2,000 inmates total.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman speaks to reporters about the demise of Tent City (Della Hasselle, MidCityMessenger.com).

Tent City had history of prison break-outs.

“They were never meant to be permanent,” Gusman said. “I’m glad they’re gone.”

That area will be used for a parking lot and an entrance way to the new building.

The tents will be recycled by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections for emergency and medical needs, Gusman added.

“They won’t just be thrown in the landfill,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”

Temporary units were one issue addressed in the Orleans Parish Prison consent decree, a federally mandated order demanding that facilities be Constitutionally acceptable.

As the new facility is being built, several meetings have been held in City Council and the City Planning Commission to discuss the size of the new jail and the number of facilities that will accommodate prisoners, including those with severe special needs.

One of the subjects to be discussed in a meeting with the Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday is the use of the Orleans Parish Temporary Detention Center, according to Susan Guidry’s office.

 

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