Director of troubled New Orleans jail quits as woes continue

The man hired to run the long-troubled New Orleans jail in 2016 resigned Monday amid continued problems at the lockup, including inmate suicides, fights and drug overdoses.

Those and other problems lingering at the jail during Gary Maynard's tenure there were highlighted in a report filed in federal court earlier this month. And they were driven home again in a Monday morning status hearing, where court-appointed monitors described scant progress in addressing a litany of problems. Those included a lack of written policies, poor training, short staffing, drugs and other smuggled contraband and inadequate mental health care, especially for women inmates.

Court appointed monitor Margo Frasier, a former Texas sheriff, recounted a weekend visit to the jail during which she smelled marijuana smoke. Frasier said monitors found that the drug Narcan had been used 10 times in recent months to treat opioid overdoses — and that deaths occurred in three of those cases.

"The problems with the jail can be fixed," Frasier insisted, as Maynard and Sheriff Marlin Gusman, the elected official tasked with running the jail, looked on.

Maynard, a former Maryland corrections official, began work in October 2016 as the jail's new "compliance director."

Gusman had agreed to hire a compliance director — and cede authority to whoever got the job — as inmate advocates and New Orleans officials urged U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to appoint a federal receiver to take over the jail, which would essentially strip Gusman of his chief duty.

Maynard's job was to improve the jail's compliance with a 2012 agreement, known as a consent decree. Gusman signed it to settle a lawsuit over jail conditions filed by attorneys for inmates, joined by the U.S. Justice Department. The city is involved because, while Gusman runs the jail, the city funds it.

"While there has been some improvement in compliance over the course of Director Maynard's tenure, the Court is nonetheless dissatisfied with the pace of reform and lack of compliance relating to numerous mandates of the consent decree," Africk wrote Monday.

Africk appointed Darley Hodge — currently a court-appointed monitor — as acting compliance director.

There had been no indication at Monday's hearing that a change was imminent, even as Frasier and others outlined the lack of progress in any number of areas that monitors said made the jail a dangerous place, including staffing shortages and failure by jail staff to tell monitors about acts of violence and drug overdoses.

"Gary Maynard's tenure has been marked with a deterioration of the conditions in the jail, not progress," attorney Emily Washington, of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, wrote in an emailed statement. "Unfortunately Director Maynard did not overhaul the senior leadership or culture at the jail, and the long broken systems remain unchanged."

Gusman had hailed the opening of a new jail building in 2015 as a major step in jail reform, but it became clear that the new building wasn't the solution. Violence and suicide attempts continued.

Weeks after he began work in October 2016, Maynard had to deal with the suicide by hanging of 15-year-old Jaquin Thomas, who was being held on a murder charge. It was the second suicide since the new building opened. There was another suicide the following spring.

Among court-appointed experts testifying at Monday's hearing was Dr. Raymond Patterson. He said inmates are able to obtain sharp objects or items they could use attempt suicide by hanging because they are not under adequate observation.