City Council To Vote On Expansion Of Largest Per-Capita Jail In America

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
June 16, 2010 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Louisiana
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans City Council is set to decide Thursday whether to approve an unnecessary expansion of Orleans Parish Prison. At a time crushing deficits and budget cuts, Sheriff Marlin Gusman is asking the City to expand the largest per-capita jail in America: Orleans Parish Prison. America has the largest prison population in the world, making the city of New Orleans potentially home to the largest per capita jail in the world. Because just an average of 2.24% arrests from January 2007 to June 2009 were for violent felonies,1 the ACLU of Louisiana today sent the Sheriff public records request demanding he tell the public who is in his jail and how much he collects from the City for holding them. The ACLU of Louisiana also demands that the City Council deny the Sheriff’s request and defer the matter to committees that can determine the fiscal impact of and need for an expansion of the jail.

Stunningly, recently averages of 14% of arrests in New Orleans were for traffic violations.2 “The City has to pay for each day a prisoner is held on a traffic offense or for a petty crime. Expanding the jail means that our struggling City would pay more,” said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

The ACLU of LA also requested documents from the Sheriff that would show his justification for the expansion, what crimes people in his possession are accused of committing, and how much it will cost the city to pay to hold additional prisoners.

Earlier this week, the ACLU of Louisiana released data showing that OPP is unjustifiably large, especially when compared to other urban cities, for example:

Jail Population Jail Population Ratio

Orleans Parish 354,850 5,862 (proposed size) 1 in 60

Orleans Parish 354, 850 3, 851 (current capacity) 1 in 92

Alameda County, CA (Oakland, CA) 1,491,482 4,405 1 in 338

Harris County (Houston, TX) 4,070,989 11,360 1 in 358

Los Angeles County 9,848,011 19,533 1 in 504

Cook County (Chicago, IL) 5,287,037 9,737 1 in 542

Copies of our public records requests may be found here:


1Metropolitan Crime Commission, Orleans Parish Criminal Justice System Accountability Report, Fall 2009, available at:

2Metropolitan Crime Commission, Orleans Parish Criminal Justice System Accountability Report, Fall 2009, available at:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.