As Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal prepares for another reelection in the fall, an unsavory spotlight has been cast on his office and the jail it oversees.
That spotlight is coming from a recent and alarming series from The Advocate on the numerous lawsuits filed against Ackal’s office, as well as the eight in-custody deaths to occur since 2005.
“There does seem to be a pattern of violence perpetuated upon the public in general, whether they are inmates or non-inmates, by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office,” Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU’s Louisiana chapter, tells The Advocate. “When we see things like that happening repeatedly, then that suggests there’s a problem within the organization. It’s not just one rogue person.”
From The Advocate’s report:
Built in 1990, the jail never had a permanent funding source, forcing parish officials to cobble together operating money from wherever they could. Six years after it was built, the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against then-Sheriff Errol Romero — who is now parish president — and Warden Danny David, charging that jail employees regularly used excessive force against inmates, including hog-tying prisoners and binding their mouths with duct tape. The complaint also alleged that officials forced prisoners to sit in restraining chairs for long periods, sometimes in their own excrement.
Complaints about overzealousness have dogged the office during Ackal’s tenure. Shortly after he took over as sheriff in 2008, a man alleged that a deputy beat him so badly during an arrest that he coughed up blood — and then a muzzle was put over his mouth. The man later settled a suit with the Sheriff’s Office for $50,000.