Orleans Parish inmates plead for food and help during 3-day protest; sheriff refuses to discuss with Fox 8

Published: Aug. 14, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 6:43 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A three-day protest inside the Orleans Justice Center has reportedly come to an end, according to other news outlets. Sheriff Susan Hutson and her staff, meanwhile, continued to ignore questions about the standoff from Fox 8.

A group of inmates barricaded inside the jail pleaded for food, medicine, and help from behind a screened window Sunday (Aug. 14), while protesting what they called “inhumane” conditions inside the parish jail. The protest began Friday.

“We haven’t eaten since Thursday,” one inmate yelled. Another said a diabetic inmate has not been provided insulin and is “about to die.”

“We, the people in block 2E, are suffering from inhumane treatment,” another read from a petition. “We are being locked in our cells for 20 hours a day. ... We do not go to court. Some of us haven’t been to court in seven months.”

The sheriff’s office acknowledged what it described as a “peaceful demonstration” by “residents” of the high-security pod 2E in a written statement issued Saturday night to other New Orleans news outlets.

Sheriff Hutson’s statement to other media says the protest ended around 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Corrections officers were sent it in to clear the pod. Six inmates were reportedly arrested and transferred to a maximum security facility.

According to the statement, the decision to enter the pod was made after inmates triggered the sprinkler system and started to flood the pod.

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Neighbors living nearby the jail said they heard inmates screaming and pleading for help throughout the overnight hours. One woman, who asked that her name be kept confidential for fear of reprisal against family members jailed in the facility, said she is fearful for the health and safety of those inside.

“All of them (are) not innocent and all of them (are) not guilty. But they’re all human beings and they belong to somebody,” the woman said.

In the first 3 1/2 months of Hutson’s tenure, two inmates have died in the jail, at least four others were stabbed between July 28-Aug. 3, and an unknown number have been treated for narcotics overdoses.

Despite running on a platform pledging greater transparency, Hutson’s office has provided less information on jail incidents than her predecessor and has ignored public records requests, withheld press statements and denied numerous interview requests from Fox 8.

A group called NOCOP (New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police) said it planned to “rally in solidarity with incarcerated people protesting” outside the jail at 6 p.m.

The woman with relatives inside said she was among the 31,975 who voted Hutson into office in a runoff election in which fewer than 60,000 Orleans Parish residents cast ballots. But she said she has had second thoughts just months into the sheriff’s four-year term.

“If you can’t do your job, and you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t have signed up for this,” she said. “You should have done your homework ... on what it is and how it go to run a city jail.”

Hutson’s office has not responded to Fox 8 requests for comment submitted Saturday and Sunday.

In a written statement sent to other news outlets and posted to Twitter by a reporter from The Lens, the OPSO said, “The residents (of pod 2E) provided OPSO jail staff with a letter asking for upgrades to their pod. Sheriff’s deputies have chosen to refrain from entering the pod and are continuing to employ de-escalation techniques and negotiate with the residents for a resolution.”

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