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Thursday
Apr042013

Video Shows New Orleans Prisoners Allegedly Taking Drugs

Obtained by ABC News(NEW ORLEANS) -- Inmates housed in a now-closed New Orleans jail were filmed apparently drinking beer, using drugs and playing with a loaded gun in their cells in a video recording shown in court Tuesday.

The video clips, which were shown as part of a U.S. District Court hearing on the merits of reopening the city jail, were shot by an anonymous cameraman whom lawyers did not name during court proceedings.

In one clip, the cameraman films an inmate allegedly walking on Bourbon Street and talking to a New Orleans cop, before they returned to the jail to film the other scenes, according to ABC News affiliate WGNO-TV.  The inmate had allegedly escaped from the jail temporarily.

The video clips were part of three videos found locked away in a safe in the Orleans County Sheriff's Office.  They were filmed years ago before the jail was closed, according to WGNO.

The sheriff would not comment on where the video originated or who produced it, and it's unclear when it was made.  No criminal charges appear to have resulted from the contents of the video.

The video clips were shown to illustrate what critics call the lawless conditions in the jail as lawmakers try to decide how to overhaul it.  The U.S. Department of Justice brought a suit against the sheriff last year, alleging that the jail's conditions violated inmates' rights and safety, resulting in Tuesday's court hearing.

At issue is whether a reopened jail would be the city's responsibility or operate under federal receivership.

Among the other antics shown in the video, inmates are seen in a crowded jail cell allegedly lighting a joint, popping pain pills and shooting drugs into their arms.

The men are also filmed allegedly playing a dice game and passing around a loaded handgun before one inmate empties the gun, allowing the bullets to fall onto the jail floor.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff, Marlin Gusman, declined to answer questions about the video, but released a statement through a public relations agency saying he would do so after the hearing was complete.

"The House of Detention is a city-owned building in a state of disrepair and abhorrent lack of proper security measures," Gusman said in the statement.  "I closed the House of Detention last year because of these problems."

Gusman pointed out that the jail was only reopened after Hurricane Katrina, when better facilities were flooded.

"It was never meant to be a long-term solution," he said.

The city's mayor, Mitch Landrieu, called the tape "outrageous."

"How can we make our city safe when prisoners are coming and going from jail as they please, walking freely on the streets and then returning to jail with heroin, cocaine, and loaded weapons?" he said in a statement.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio