Troubled Orleans Jail’s Interim Leader Receives Approval to Remain in Post

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – The troubled Orleans Justice Center jail’s temporary leader, who is tasked with bringing the facility into compliance with a 2013 federal consent decree, is expected to be formally appointed to the post.

Darnley Hodge has been running the jail on an interim basis since the January resignation of Independent Compliance Director Gary Maynard. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit that prompted the consent decree, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and City of New Orleans, last week submitted Hodge as their only choice for the job, according to an Oct. 5 letter from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s attorney James Williams.

The letter states Gusman approved the legal parties’ choice of Hodge — the last step required to secure the appointment. U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, who oversees the consent decree case and was the recipient of the Oct. 5 letter, will likely finalize the appointment with a court order.

Hodge’s position was created in June 2016 as part of a compromise to prevent the potential total takeover of the jail by the federal government from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman. The compromise arose after the plaintiffs, who include jailed and formerly jailed people represented by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, in addition to the Justice Department and City of New Orleans, argued the jail’s failure to make progress on the consent decree made it unsafe and unconstitutional under Gusman’s leadership. The lengthy court order detailing the compliance director’s duties states the leader would be control of daily operations at the jail and other aspects of the sheriff’s office, and should seek advice from Gusman.

Maynard, who had the job for about a year and a half, resigned the day U.S. District Judge Lance Africk expressed dissatisfaction with the jail’s progress.

Hodge is expected to stay in place until Africk decides the jail has substantially implemented changes ordered by a federal consent decree to improve conditions in the facility, according to the court order. In June 2016, when the position was created, Africk estimated the task would take about a year. More than two years later, the jail is on its second compliance director and continues to receive grim reviews from a team of corrections experts that makes up the jail monitoring team. Before Hodge took over the role from Maynard, he was one of seven members of that monitoring team.

When Africk issued his order announcing the release of Maynard, who previously ran corrections departments in four states, he lauded Hodge’s “wealth of experience,” and “no-nonsense approach.” That Jan. 29 order, which also said Hodge would temporarily replace Maynard, mentions Hodge’s four decades of experience in law enforcement, jail operations, military and consulting services.

The most recent monitors’ report, issued in late August, remarks on the “unacceptable” level of violence and “high levels of disorder” at the jail, but notes progress in areas such as improved communications, training and an appropriate prioritization of recruitment for the understaffed lockup. The report, which is based on a timeframe when Hodge served as leader, ultimately concluded the jail was “not safe for inmates or staff.”

The August report, however, states the monitors believe Hodge “brings substantial knowledge of jail operations” and has made efforts to comply with the consent decree. Kerry Dean, an attorney representing the U.S. Department of Justice, said at during a June federal hearing she was “cautiously optimistic” about the jail’s progress with the consent decree.

Hodge will be on hand Tuesday night (Oct. 9) to answer questions about the jail during the sheriff’s office’s routine community meeting. The quarterly public meeting, which is required by the consent decree, is planned for 6-7:30 p.m. at Dillard University, 2601 Gentilly Blvd., in the professional schools and sciences building.

By: Emily Lane

Published: October 9, 2018


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