Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Push Back Against Gusman Claims

Members of the PAC for Justice gather to support Susan Hutson for Orleans Parish Sheriff. Photo courtesy of PAC for Justice

Criminal justice reform advocates from across New Orleans met on Monday to refute claims from Sheriff Gusman that he has led the way on various reform efforts. The group gathered on the steps of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, where community leaders from across New Orleans held a press conference to support former Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson for Sheriff.

“Sheriff Gusman has taken credit for downsizing the jail but we know that was the work of advocates,” said PAC for Justice Co-Chair Sade Dumas. “We know that he wanted to build a 6,000-bed jail facility and our community members came together and said we do not want to support over-incarcerating our residents.”

Former City Councilmember Susan Guidry also made note of Gusman’s 2010 proposal for a massive jail expansion, saying, “[Sheriff Gusman] says he brought the jail population down 85%. That amazes me. In fact, he fought us and the reform community tooth-and-nail-first to keep all the Fed prisoners he had in the jail, then to keep the state prisoners in the jail, and then to illegally keep members of our Hispanic community past their release dates as a favor to ICE.”

Katie Schwartzmann, lead counsel for a case that resulted in the Orleans Parish Prison and Sheriff Gusman being placed under a federal consent decree pointed out that Gusman could not take credit for changes at the jail. Those changes were forced by the federal consent decree. Former public defender Will Snowden noted that Gusman’s support of the Phase III jail expansion would cost the city $51 million.

Grassroots and community leaders from across New Orleans – most recently District Attorney Jason Williams – have joined together in support of Hutson, who faces incumbent Marlin Gusman in a runoff election on December 11.

In a recent report, local nonprofit Voters Organized to Educate connected several of Gusman’s campaign donors to jail contracts and cost overruns that benefit Gusman. Many of those donors were from Texas, in spite of Gusman’s repeated claims that it was Hutson who has been supported and funded from out of state.


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