People often complain about the state of New Orleans.  The easiest way to change the city is through the ballot box.  This fall New Orleanians will get the chance to change our city government.  Voters often don’t have the time to interview or question the candidates.  This series will inform and educate readers about most candidates in the most critical races. 

This week we look at the sheriff’s race.  Sheriff is the 2nd most powerful seat in city government.  And the current sheriff, Marlin Gusman is one of the  longest serving politicians in New Orleans. During his tenure, he has endured Hurricane Katrina flood waters, built a new facility,  seen prisoners escape, and is currently under a federal consent decree.  Despite many challenges and challengers over the years, Sheriff Gusman is one of the city’s most popular elected officials. Each time he has been reelected by an overwhelming majority

George Floyd Effect

But this cycle he faces his most difficult challenge as an elected official.  Nationally and locally, there is a hard progressive shift in criminal justice. Nowadays, “lock em up and throw away the key” is bad policy.  Compliantly, the state of Louisiana released thousands of nonviolent offenders over the last two years.  New Orleans had already downsized the jail from over 7000 beds in the 70’s to just over 1200 now.  And reform groups seek an even smaller jail.

This national progressive wave is a real factor in New Orleans’ elections.  Current DA, Jason Williams, was elected after his reform campaign promised progressive reform of the District Attorney’s office.  Now national money is pouring into the Sheriff’s race.  Former police monitor, Susan Hutson placed second and has momentum going into the runoff. She wants to completely change the Sheriff’s office. Additionally, gentrification has dramatically impacted voting outcomes across political precincts. So, will New Orleanians actually vote Gusman out of office?

The Candidates

Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Despite very public opposition, Sheriff Gusman has many accomplishments. Sheriff  Gusman is an advocate for rehabilitation and education. He views this as a way to break the cycle of crime and violence among young people. He has instituted a Day Reporting Center for probation/parole violators. The Sheriff created a regional re-entry program to reduce recidivism. And he opened education dorms and learning centers in the prison.

But Gusman’s biggest achievement is often his most overlooked. He is the first super sheriff in Orleans. Previously in New Orleans, the civil and the criminal divisions were two separate offices. Gusman managed the consolidation of the two sheriff’s offices in New Orleans. Under Gusman’s management and oversight in New Orleans, there is only one sheriff in town.

Achievements in office

  • Modernized the facilities at the Sheriff’s office
  •  And opened a new Kitchen/Warehouse/Central Plant that opened in 2014
  •  Opened the Orleans Justice Center in 2015
  •  Also designed as a cutting edge, latest concept, direct supervision facility.
  • More than doubled deputy pay during his tenure,
  • Disbursed millions of dollars to crime victims from the victims assistance fund

Challenger Susan Hutson

Attorney Susan Hutson

Ms. Susan Hutson grew up in the projects of Philadelphia before attending the University of Pennsylvania.  She first came to New Orleans to attend Tulane Law School.  After graduating, law school she began her legal career. This eventually led to police oversight work in Austin, then Los Angeles. She returned New Orleans as the city’s first police monitor.  She resigned that job to run for sheriff.

Her Platform Includes

  • Stop recording calls between inmates and their attorneys
  • Offer free phone calls for inmates
  • Terminate maligned current healthcare provider’s contract and partner with public health providers
  • Ensure gender confirming housing for LGBTQ community
  • Allow free, open and unlimited visitation
  • Turn jail into a voting precinct and allow eligible inmates an opportunity to vote

Ms. Hutson is media savvy and well known in our community.  Her work protecting crime scenes and the rights of those accused by the police have endeared her to many in our city.  This is her first run for public office.

Sheriff Gusman is a powerful political force in this community.  He has served for over 20 years.  Citizens know who he is and what he represents.  But the forces of change are well financed and properly messaged.  Forced into a runoff, the Sheriff is in for the fight of his political life. 

But now voters must decide if they truly want the kind of reform Ms. Hutson desires. And voters must decide if a person who has never run a prison is qualified to run one of the most difficult to run prisons in America. Powerful local groups, like VOTE, run by advocate Norris Henderson, are working hard to unseat Sheriff Gusman. But the Sheriff is a great campaigner with a strong team working to improve their message and regain the seat. Early voting is this week. Geaux Vote!

2 thoughts on “Sheriff Marlin Gusman Might be In Serious Trouble”
  1. Democracies require that we elect the people we feel will do the jobs they are elected to do. My city has a problem of political paralysis handed down for generations which is viral in infecting all who come in contact with it. It’s time for reform in all of the systems impacted by this virus. The civil and criminal components, both need to be purged of this infection. We need people who are serious about reform and those who can see the problems and remove them from all where they impact. This is not an easy job but one that must be done. Voters must make sound decisions in there choice of who they elect and then hold accountable for doing this work. The change will reflect the success in whether the reform has occurred and is the change needed. Prayers going up. Systems require all.components work for the same end result. Each performing their related tasks in conjunction with each other to produce the desired results.

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