A local foundation is disappointed with the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Marlin Gusman for failing to respond to a request for data on acutely mentally ill prisoners.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana filed suit against the OPSO and Gusman in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans on Sept. 9.

Gusman admits that the new facilities at Orleans Parish Prison need to be larger to accommodate acutely mental illness inmates, according to the lawsuit, but has failed to respond to the ACLU Foundation's request on the number housed at the facility. Acutely mentally ill refers to inmates that have been determined to require special housing as a result of their illness.

Majorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, believes that these public records should be shared with the citizens of Orleans Parish.

“The public has a right to know what its government is doing, with certain restricted limitations,” Esman said, “There is a body of law that sets out what records are public and terms under which they must be disclosed, because government must act in the ‘sunshine’ so that people will know what is going on. That’s the reason we have records that are ‘public.’”

The ACLU request was made in July.

“When a government official disregards the requirements of the law, the law specifically provides that the remedy is a lawsuit,” Esman states, “And of course it’s important for government officials to obey the law, which is why it’s both necessary and important to pursue whatever remedy is appropriate when they don’t.”

Currently, the case is pending in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

The ACLU Foundation of Louisiana is represented by attorney Michael T. Tusa Jr., of Sutton, Akler and Rather, LLC in Mandeville.

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