NEW ORLEANS — There's a new sheriff in New Orleans.
Susan Hutson defeated incumbent Marlin Gusman in Saturday's runoff election.
First-time candidate Hutson campaigned on a progressive platform, saying that after four terms of Gusman at the helm it’s time for change and hammering home the fact that the jail has been operating under a consent decree for nearly a decade.
Gusman painted Hutson as soft on crime and “out of touch” with “no experience whatsoever.”
The job’s main responsibility is to run the sprawling Orleans Parish Correctional Center.
The candidates differed on whether to build another jail to house inmates with mental health issues, known as the Phase III building.
Gusman has said the new building is necessary to make needed improvements to inmates' medical care.
“An important part of the long-term solution to the lack of compliance with the consent judgment in the areas of medical and mental health,” Gusman said in a written statement.
The Orleans Parish jail has been under a federal consent decree since 2013. It calls for sweeping changes at a jail complex notorious for inmate violence, frequent escapes, poor mental health care and inmate deaths.
Hutson said Phase III would be a $51 million white elephant. She backs Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s idea of renovating part of the existing central jail to accommodate inmates with health problems.