New Orleans sheriff: Federal takeover not the answer

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2016 6:31 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans sheriff said Monday his department is doing a good job improving the city's jail and should get more time rather than face a federal takeover.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman's management of the jail has come under harsh scrutiny by the Justice Department. Last week, the department and lawyers for inmates asked a court to appoint a third party to operate the long-troubled jail, saying new leadership is essential because Gusman has for years failed to improve conditions that endanger inmates.

"A federal takeover is not the answer," Gusman said. "When the feds take over things, most of the time it doesn't end right. We're going to continue to move forward. We have made material progress. Period."

Gusman, first elected in 2004, said the department works daily to improve.

"We think it is unreasonable for the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice to expect complete perfection in only two years when we are overhauling a system that was broken for 30 years before I became sheriff," he said.

Gusman said that of 173 areas covered by an agreement with the Justice Department of Justice and other plaintiffs, his office has met all or most of the goals in 10 areas and partial compliance in nearly 100.

He said sheriffs in similar consent decrees in other parts of the U.S. have been given many more years to comply, though he didn't give any examples.

He said he inherited a jail with nearly 6,000 inmates, and has cut that number to 1,600. He has also doubled starting pay for deputies to improve retention.

Gusman also announced two new positions — chief of investigations and chief financial officer.