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Prison in New Orleans: Sex and drugs and rock and roll

HAD the images from the jail in New Orleans been part of a film, people would have accused Hollywood of sensationalism. As cameras rolled in the cell block, inmates openly shot up heroin, smoked crack, snorted cocaine, swallowed pills, gambled with dice, guzzled beer and even brandished a loaded handgun. In another video, an inmate who had worked out a way to come and go at will offered a guided tour of Bourbon Street, reminding viewers that he was supposed to be locked up.The videos, apparently shot by inmates in 2009, were shown on April 2nd in a federal courtroom amid a bitter fight over conditions in Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). Within hours, it seemed, everyone in New Orleans had seen them, and they were getting heavy play on CNN and elsewhere as well.If the videos were the talk of the town, some of the other testimony was more disturbing, if less entertaining. Thirty-two stabbings were reported in the prison last year, and nearly 700 assaults. Forty prisoners have died since 2006. Suicides are frequent; homosexual rape is said to be common.The court battle revolves around mandatory reforms at OPP that have already been agreed to by the city’s jailer, Sheriff…

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