Beer, Drugs and Filthy Conditions: New Orleans Jail Caught on Tape

A scene from a video of the Orleans Parish Prison (YouTube)
A scene from a video of the Orleans Parish Prison (YouTube)

Louisiana's Orleans Parish Prison complex has been called "one of the worst large-city jails in the whole country," and a now-viral video showing an institution "wracked by violence, inmate suicides, overcrowding, dilapidation and mismanagement" has given imagery to that label, Slate reports.


Footage that emerged in a federal courtroom this week shows inmates openly drinking, gambling, using cellphones and abusing drugs. Worse, there's a not-so-subtle implication that prison employees are in on it.

The New Orleans prison is just one of many out-of-control American jails, which get that way, Slate's crime blogger Justin Peters argues, because "America doesn't care about prisons."

The court was treated to a highlight reel that makes it seem like Sheriff Marlin Gusman takes his management cues from Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes. They show inmates openly drinking, gambling, chatting on cell phones, and abusing drugs. At one point, a group of cheerful inmates relax in their cell with cans of Budweiser retrieved from a yellow cooler. (“Pop me one of them beers open, man,” the guy doing the filming says.) One inmate even leaves the jail for a night of carousing on Bourbon Street. One inmate has a freaking gun …

Sheriff Marlin Gusman comes across as a bit of an absentee landlord; in court yesterday, according to the Times-Picayune, Gusman denied the most extreme allegations and "testified that he can't recall even reading the reports of experts who found egregious conditions at the jail in recent years. He also said he only scanned, but did not carefully read, key court documents that preceded his signing of a federal consent decree in December that would govern a raft of reforms to the Orleans Parish jail system."

Read more and watch the video at Slate.