Appeals court won’t block new health facilities for jail

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court Thursday upheld an order that the city of New Orleans build new facilities for people jailed with mental health and medical needs.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration had appealed U.S. District Judge Lance Africk’s order. And the new New Orleans sheriff, Susan Hutson, also had opposed the new facility. Hutson defeated the former sheriff, Marlin Gusman, who had supported building the new facilities.

The jail, known as the Orleans Justice Center, is under court oversight as it works to implement improvements under an agreement, approved in 2013, to settle a 2012 lawsuit over dangerous conditions. The City Council approved plans for the new facility for mental health and medical needs in 2017 under then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu with the lone vote against it cast by Cantrell, then a council member, Thursday’s ruling noted.

A three-judge 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected various arguments by the city, including that the city lacks funds for the project. The opinion said $48 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency money remains available.

“The city’s assertion that the OJC already provides detainees with medical and mental-health care above minimum constitutional standards lacks merit,” the opinion issued Thursday added, noting a lack of suicide-resistant cells.