City Council Unanimously Votes to Ban Use of Tear Gas on Protestors and Halt Proposed Construction of Phase III Jail Facility


The vote follows the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition’s months-long push to ban the use of the chemical weapon and years of advocating against jail expansion.

New Orleans, LA, September 17, 2020—The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) has put out the following statement after today’s City Council meeting, where council members unanimously voted to ban the use of tear gas against protesters in addition to unanimously voting to in favor of a resolution in support of the proposed alternative jail retrofit plan to halt the construction of an additional Phase III jail facility:

“We are encouraged by the New Orleans City Council’s unanimous passing of the ordinance banning the use of tear gas against protestors. While OPPRC’s close work with Council members Jay H. Banks and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana on the ordinance is crucial, the New Orleans Police Department must now work to ensure its updated policy reflects community input and goes beyond the protections presented in this ordinance. NOPD’s policy development process must be transparent and include the greater New Orleans community ahead of finalizing the ordinance in order to include necessary amendments if needed.”

Today’s City Council meeting also included a vote on the alternative jail retrofit plan to halt the construction of an additional Phase III jail facility, of which 6-0 council members voted in favor of the resolution.

“City Council has chosen to stand with the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) and the people of New Orleans by unanimously passing the resolution supporting the retrofit plan as an alternative to Phase III jail expansion. We’re encouraged to see our elected leaders listening to the needs of the people while committing to supporting community care over jail expansion. Opposing forces and federal judges must now follow suit and support the cheaper and ethical retrofit option that offers a constitutional solution for people with mental illness on an even faster timeline than the proposed Phase III plans.”

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Federal Judge Lance M. Africk and Magistrate Michael B. North will make a ruling based on the city’s submission of the alternative retrofit option this October 5th.


About the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC)

The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition is a diverse, grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations from across New Orleans who have come together to shrink the size of the jail and improve the conditions of confinement for those held in detention in Orleans Parish. Founded in 2004, OPPRC members include community activists, lawyers, service providers, organizers, formerly incarcerated people, and their family members.

Visit opprcnola.org for more information.

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One thought on “City Council Unanimously Votes to Ban Use of Tear Gas on Protestors and Halt Proposed Construction of Phase III Jail Facility

  1. I want to thank the council for having given me the opportunity at Thursday’s meeting to comment on this very important issue. It is extremely disappointing and troubling to me that my allies are advocating for shoehorning people with severe mental illnesses into the existing jail, many of who will be confined in glass cells, as an alternative to a mental health jail.

    Glass cells. Think about that for a minute.

    Unlike Psychiatric treatment facilities, OPSO is handcuffed to treat people who will not accept treatment because they lack awareness that they are sick. Locking them in transparent 6X9 cells and left untreated to live with command auditory delusions and hallucinations is cruel and inhumane and in my opinion constitutes torture. Of course the sheriff will benefit from reduced wrongful death and neglect suits as a monitor will be there to ensure that if someone is trying to pluck out their eyes to stop visions, or shove tissue in their ears to stop voices, or knock themselves unconscious to find relief from their torment.

    I would like to think that this over-fixation with numbers and costs rather than the lives of people suffering with untreated and underrated serious mental illnesses is simply due to the inability to grasp the deeper issues at hand rather than intent to do harm.

    I support the need for a phase 3 special-needs facility however I do not believe that it should be located on the jail campus and under the jurisdiction of corrections. The facility should be designed as a hospital and located in the community under the jurisdiction of psychiatrists.

    Not only would that allow the jail to truly be brought into compliance, it is also a more just solution for people who have been forced through the chute of the criminal justice system by mental health laws that require dangerousness and grave disability before treatment can be initiated.

    The bottom line is, whether it be a phase 2 or phase 3 or phase 10, a jail will never be a solution for a population of people who lack awareness that they are sick and therefore refuse treatment. These folks will always need hospital care. We waste enormous amounts of money transporting inmates to and from the jail to the forensic hospital in Jackson, Louisiana because we don’t have an alternative in-Parish.

    The idea that somehow a phase 2 retrofit will get us to decriminalizing serious mental illness (SMI) is ludicrous and absurd. It’s a false promise and I urge the council to think very carefully before going down that path.

    The bottom line is that this is an extremely complex issue that involves a population of people with extremely complex problems. Piecemealing solutions driven by people who likely cannot even pronounce the word anosognosia, let alone what it is, will only serve to cement the antiquated system we already have. The city is in desperate need of a serious mental illness coordinating committee composed of members who have actual expertise on untreated and under-treated SMI and the relationship to homelessness and incarceration. It’s long past time that we sit around the room together and hold each other accountable so that we can truly vision how to end incarceration, homelessness and death for people with SMI.

    Thank you,

    Janet Hays
    Director – Healing Minds NOLA

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