NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— Flashbangs were heard and seen coming for Pod 2E at the Orleans Justice Center Sunday night — a protest in one of the inmate living areas coming to a close when deputies stormed into the jail. Nearly 24 hours after, new details have been released and we’re given an exclusive look inside the pod by WGNO’s LBJ and Britney Dixon.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the strong scent of cleaning solutions, reportedly used by the group of inmates to smear on the windows so they couldn’t be seen, and spilled on the floors to make them more slippery.
Walking into the facility, damage can be seen to the pod, including trash scattered, surveillance cameras covered, and a shattered door that was once blocked by the group protesting the facility’s living conditions.
The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office tells WGNO that one of the main reasons they took over the protest was that the sprinkler system was activated, flooding the pod and possibly the pod below it. According to the sheriff’s office, the protest began on Friday with a refusal for lockdown, when inmates are required to be inside their cells.
“Basically they would take the top of the deodorant, stick up here in the slot of the particular cell, and when the staff member closes the cell… it appears that it’s closed but it’s actually not,” agent Mark Jones Sr. told WGNO’s LBJ.
The electronic elements like the kiosk used for communications and monitors for visitations were damaged in the standoff, along with a ceiling camera that was also removed. Sheriff Susan Hutson reports several thousand dollars worth of damage sustained in the protest.
For the 44 inmates involved in the demonstration, the six that were moved had already been sentenced and were awaiting either further court dates or procedures. The other 38 are still being housed at the OJC.
While the protest was going on, members of the public joined from outside the jail’s walls, advocating for what inmates have called inhumane treatment. One person was outside when the standoff ended, catching the flashbangs on camera.
Video courtesy: New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police
“People in this jail have been beaten, they’ve been stabbed, one guy has died, just in the past month,” J. Martel with New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police said. “These conditions are inhumane. These people are suffering.”
Leslie Molson recently toured the jail. She told WGNO in a statement, “The one thing that stuck out was that the jail is so poorly designed and understaffed that the prisoners are totally isolated… no outside time, having to wear shackles even while in the pod, no communication with staff, so I’m not surprised they went so far as to protest. These are mostly people jailed pretrial, and yet they are being punished and treated like animals.”
But, that protest ended after jail administrators said inmates started making weapons and tried to flood the pod. That caused OPSO and the Department of Corrections to come in and get them out.
Six of the 44 inmates were removed and transferred to either Angola Prison or Dixon Correctional Institute. One inmate who refused his diabetes medication was hospitalized. On Monday morning, the remaining inmates were back in the pod.
A neighbor described the scene as chaotic, telling WGNO’s Britney Dixon that the problem is not new under Sheriff Hutson’s leadership.
“I’ve been here maybe like 3 years you just hear uproars 2-3 times a week,” he said. “They’re just fed up but stop going to jail that’s what I would say.”
Councilwoman Lesli Harris addressed the incident in Criminal Justice Committee Monday, saying she did not believe some of the requests should have been denied.
“Some of these things seem like they’re no brainers like allowing them to have more than 4 books per month,” Harris said.
Jail officials pushed back. They said some of the requests needed to be denied because of security issues.