NEW ORLEANS -- Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has fired back at Mayor Mitch Landrieu, hours after the city filed to have the prison placed in federal receivership.
Gusman called the move a "blatant political attack" and said Landrieu is picking fights rather than trying to fix the city's financial woes. The city faces the possibility of incurring millions of dollars in costs to pay for federal consent decrees to both the Orleans Parish Prison and to the New Orleans Police Department.
"This consent decree is about a lack of funding," Gusman said. "Contrary to Mayor Landrieu's blatant lie, his administration has not invested any money in the infrastructure of the jail or in retaining deputies."
Landrieu has said the city can't afford to pay the price tag
The police consent decree is estimated to cost up to $55 million over five years, while the prison consent decree is estimated at $17 to $22 million a year for an unspecified period.
Gusman has come under fire after video was released during testimony that showed inmates brandishing a weapon, using drugs and drinking beer inside the now-closed House of Detention.
“It gets clearer every day that the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is not keeping the prison secure and our city safe," said Landrieu. "This is about management, not money. Last week, expert after expert talked about mismanagement and said this was one of the worst run jails in the country. That is why I am asking for receivership so a corrections expert can run the jail in a safe, secure and fiscally responsible way.”
You can read Gusman's full statement below:
"This filing is another blatant political attack aimed at deflecting the attention away from the police consent decree and the jail consent decree.
Mayor Landrieu has decided to pick another fight, instead of working for a solution. I have a history of public service to this city.
When I was CAO, the budget was balanced and the crime rate was cut in half.
I have instituted reforms at the jail and the Sheriff's Office, since I was elected. I inherited old and outdated facilities and a workforce that was being paid just above minimum wage. Then Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed the jail complex.
This consent decree is about a lack of funding. Contrary to Mayor Landrieu's blatant lie, his administration has not invested any money in the infrastructure of the jail or in retaining deputies. Not only has he failed to invest any resources since he was elected, he has delayed the construction of the new jail by almost a year. Now Mayor Landrieu is trying to siphon FEMA funding designated for jail facilities for his pet projects. He will come up with any legal argument to avoid leadership and to keep the attention off of his own failure to reduce crime in the city.
There are four parties involved in the consent decree. Three of those parties, including the Department of Justice and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, have agreed that the safeguards and improvements can make the Orleans Parish jail a better department. It is a roadmap for a better Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and improved public safety in our city.
The only person who is holding out in moving forward and doing the things we need to do is Mayor Landrieu. It's disappointing.
Mayor Landrieu is also talking out of both sides of his mouth. When he talks about his conscience, he says nothing about ignoring repeated requests from the Sheriff's Office for adequate funding for better deputy pay, training, better jail conditions, and improvements in mental health care.
He refers to a 40 year old problem regarding the lack of proper funding of the city's jail system. That is exactly what I have said for years. I wanted to avoid this problem. I was ignored by the Mayor.
Better staff pay, better mental health care and retaining experienced deputies take proper funding. Today's legal filing is another effort by Mayor Landrieu to delay the improvements that the Department of Justice and the Sheriff's Office have agreed to."