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WWL>Topics>>12-11 3:10pm Angela, Sheriff Marlin Gusman

12-11 3:10pm Angela, Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Dec 11, 2013|

OPEN BOOK with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman. He took control of America’s 8th largest correctional facility 9 months before Katrina. It was a disaster during the storm…and a catastrophe after.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Well he is wrapping up his second term as criminals sheriff of Orleans spare cash but -- dutchman is already cranking up four run for a third term. The sheriff has been in the news a lot this year with the debate about the size of this new prison who will pay for the demands of the federal consent to Korean. And revelations by a former prison employee of violence an inhumane conditions at the facility. I want to thank you very much for being here because I have. For almost from day one of taking over this job I invited you and -- your schedule is crazy you've got a lot going on but thank you very much become. I'm glad to be hearing Angela and you -- the first one in line to sign up today. For reelection. That's correct and look before we get started though I didn't want to express my condolences on the loss of Frank Davis he was. Really and I guess the short time relatively he was an institution in this community and a world gonna miss him. Thank you very very much. Yes we are all gonna miss yesterday was rough. I'm just a tremendous personality tremendous heart and done. Missed when he moved but now to think that he's not going to be around is on almost unbelievable. A lot of his recipes is still here they live and that will live for a long time. We have much to talk about some of that I'm sure a little uncomfortable but we still need to address the issues that people been reading in the newspaper seeing on the news. Newscast. One and we go ahead and start with. Conditions of the jail. Let me ask you. What do you think are the conditions of your jail we'll look. -- look. I inherited a mess. And after Katrina. We got ten times worse because we were. Without any facilities at all. We were at the train station. For him I guess about almost sixty days. And then we were able to reopen a building because a train station bus stations that hey we need to space. So it's been a difficult journey back we're in temporary facilities. Outdated facilities. Facilities there were not designed. Originally to be jails. And you know so were were making their way back we've been clawing their way back into it. We opened up a temporary detention center. Which is a lot better and we're on on the verge of opening up. A new modern safe secure facility. That's really going to not only change. Things but it's gonna let us close. Buildings like the OPP noble parish prison that was built in the 1920s. And you know in the 1920s they they approached corrections a different way. And not only that but they also that building. Owned by the city just hasn't been maintained. And so it's outdated it's outmoded. We have to get out of it. That that has an effect on the conditions the sooner we get out of it the better so. I would tell you that things are. Not anywhere near what we want to be but we're we're close to getting them where we can be we should be. Let's talk about the new jailed because the new jail is also an -- controversial in that you want more. More -- Well not never really know you know what what I always wanted to do is to have the right size facility. And you know the City Council and we went to them we don't want to then get every permit that we needed. And in their wisdom. They said that they wanted to limit you know the number of that's enough said OK I'm fine with that. I'm I'm concerned to. Whether or not that limit is going to allow. The number of people that are incarcerated to be incarcerated. I think if there's a way and we've been working and one of the things we've done. Over the years is reduce the number of people that are incarcerated. In order took over. This was the eighth largest jail system in the United States of America. Located in the heart of our city. I said when ran for office the first time we shouldn't have that in the heart of our city that it sends the wrong message. That it's you know it's not. What we want. So. Going from 6000 inmates now we're down to about twenty. 32200. Some days and the new jail will accommodate Hellman. And until has 14130. Bids. Will accommodate about 1260. Prisoners. So. Even if you. You know even if you reduce it by another. 300 or so you're still gonna have some tough times fitting him in. No there is. Safety -- in their at least for the next eighteen months after we opened the new facility where will be able use. The temporary detention center. Which is none of this facility it's it's. It's temporary but it really doesn't look it's temporary it's they are tense look. So you know there's there's some wiggle room there. -- originally into -- me if I'm wrong. Originally when the Jill was designed. It was to have also house the mentally ill. At which I understand nationally has become an enormous problem. Of jails being essentially is the new mental hospitals. So you have a higher percentage of of that in my wrong. No not going to be the unfortunately. Jails have become. The number one. Institution where people are being house from mental illness in the shouldn't be like that there should be other safety though southern. Institutions in cities and communities across the nation where people can get that kind of help that they need to avoid going to jail. But now. Again correct me if I'm wrong but this new facility. In essence it came out that they wouldn't be able to handle that's not true okay it's not true and correct the. That there was a whole lot that was. Part of the the litigation involving the consent where they set a whole lot of things that were really. More -- more. Plaintiff in you know dominant make my point is strong as I -- as opposed to what the real facts are for the fact is is that we can accommodate. Any type of inmate except -- acute mental illness film inmate in that facility. Now having said that there are. Some really good ways to do it and there are also some ways Regis you know you can do it. So we wanna do it the best way possible. And that's with a discussion has been about to do with the best way possible so. When you look at the consent decree that say hey let's do the best way possible. That came later after the building had been already. The construction was already under way. So you know we're we're still able to make sure that we get that building the best way that we want to. In the meantime he'll be housing. Medically ill and mentally ill at the other facility I don't know we're gonna do it at that facility -- -- Everything especially in there there was a lot of them in -- -- now there was a lot of confusion. We have mental. Mental health book counseling centers in there we have a medical clinic in there. We have all of that in there it's. Like -- said when the when when you're in the litigation and you're trying to through. Rocks and stones they throw him as far as they can. Than than why are you maintaining. The other older facility for eighteen months. Well the older facilities actually about a year and a half hole. And that's because of them of the pure size and numbers. Having those additional numbers. Will allow us to be able to. To do with the court's -- to look. Unlike. All of the other chirps in Louisiana. I am not a sure thing goes the rest people. We're really at home plate so it's the mostly it's the police department does bring brings us. And then between the courts in the district attorney in order us to keep people here so it's -- -- I'm going out and filling it up so. Who would just wanna make sure that we can accommodate the needs to law enforcement in the justice system. Sheriff marlin Desmond is our guest today again we have a lot to talk about and we've been talking about the new prison. It is as you say it's sort of a thing in motion -- gonna have a new prison open but it isn't gonna accommodate all of the prisoners you have therefore the City Council a committee has agreed that you can extend the life of some of the older buildings. And it has to house that's OK he. Let's go want to talk about conditions we did have a whole show yesterday with the whistle -- with Brian Collins. And he was saying that you know -- inhumane conditions are bad and that there is violence it's senators sent. And I just would like your reaction I know he no longer works for you he has stepped aside but he still feels. Well frankly few frills that he is being followed that he has. That your office has hired a detective to follow him. We'll look delicious. Spend. But that's just a couple of minutes. First of all my office. Mean no one connected with me is following him anywhere. That's just not true that's that's a false statement. Secondly. There was never any retaliation. Never. And I asked anyone to point out any example of retaliation. We encouraged him to return to work we offered him. The theme shift. The same schedule. The same -- A different supervisor. And a different work environment. You know he voluntarily resigned. -- and a. -- -- you know working anymore he had he had concerns about that new work assignment that's between the two -- -- I'm very curious though that when you have someone who comes out that forward and in a newspaper and says these things. That you wouldn't want to meet with him personal decision they tried pianist attorney tried -- just just the two of you sitting down. While I don't think that's true either there was never. Ever any requests by them to meet with me personally. And as a matter of fact. There was never. Any. Information that he sent along to his supervisors. Or to any of his superiors about any of the things that he supposedly saw. Look the incident that the quote was the whistle blower incident that incident was reported. In the press. It was investigated. By our office it was presented to the district returning the district attorney. Did a successful prosecution on the date that that issue was going to trial. The fellow pleaded guilty got time for that and in addition to what he was doing. So I'm not sure -- what there was a whistle blowing about you know that they're searching for that is well. And I think his concern monster he's not disagree that it wasn't investigated. It was sort of the this was a minor event. As opposed to what he saw as a major event and that's why the need for the picture. Because the picture showed a bloody sell it wasn't just twenty little mix it was being stabbed. And I think it was in line with what. He was saying all along I kept it kept saying I'm. And July of you know I haven't complained to a supervisor concerned about the situation in it would go nowhere. It was that more than an individual event. Well look I'm not going to. Disease he's filed some legal actions so I can't get into an incumbent on that. What I can tell you is that. There was never any communication. With his supervisors and then. We -- zero tolerance on inmate on inmate violence we -- zero tolerance on. Deputy joining -- violence and those are cases that we investigate those are cases that we take to the -- returning -- if you look at my record. You look at the record of office they are prosecuted. When the facts are warranted. And in convictions are ahead so the what he's saying doesn't is not supported by the record okay I have a record -- in public service. For over 25 years I -- record a public service and you know somebody who comes up who doesn't have that record and they start saying things ought to do this come. Go look at my record. Again and you're right this is going to -- figured out in whatever -- perceiving you where he has filed. And an annual have to justify everything and he will have to justify everything. It is however. Part of and I and and it's difficult for me even to say these things that. For instance that you know poll that came out a couple of months ago that was showing you with a 33%. Approval rate. That says there is a lack of confidence right now. Where do you think that comes from. I think that. And you know I talked about this before we went on and this has been a tough year this you know we've gone through the consent decree. In the consent decree that the video came out. People bringing contraband into the jail. Contravene a problem and every GO facility in this country. The disputes with the mayor and the funding it's been tough and and what people look at. What's being reported. They don't know and we're going to be bringing out more. About all of the positive things that we now have in place and that we've been putting in place or all the positive things that. That we have been doing day in Indio. No we're at 24 hour days seven days a week operation. And people don't always think about. What -- a lot of people take for granted we're out there doing every single day. Only stuff that gets reported unfortunately sometimes. Is the bad stuff now and then that is true and then they'll go to the very nature of news writer wrong it is the more negative not that people don't see that there might be some. Good things that your attempting to do it is to the perception right now and as you know perception is reality in people's minds. Perception right now is that there is a lot of violence fear that it isn't inhumane place and it is that -- their for the federal government has command with this consent to Corey. Well look the consent decree is in place I signed it just about a year ago. The monitors have been there. The monitors in place we have a new GAO corrections chief. We can get better. We can get better but that's that's what -- says look at the record. We are not tolerating. Violence among inmates were not tolerating. Violence on deputies and inmates. But also look at who's coming to news. We don't have. We have people that are not able to be in society. And so it's a tough environment. We're trying to improve the environment we think the environment has a big impact on what we do all of those things working together. You know but but look our reentry program. You know what we're gonna have to -- gonna kind of shift gears here a little bit. That there's this whole movement of not incarcerating as many people and this is not just locally. That it is such a high cost and various things are being implemented to to where that wouldn't happen. And yet. A prison in a way makes its money by the per date amount that you get per prisoner. So. Even though you're saying yes we want fewer prisoners because our -- going to be smaller on top of everything else. You're gonna be losing money. How where is where do you get your money you get a from the prisoners isn't there also -- tax that all taxpayers some mills go to. The prison now know that currently there is no tax military goes to the operation of the person. There is a small tax Milledge. Two point nine mills that goes to provide -- Capital improvements. Not just that that deal but also for other criminal justice agencies. Like the criminal courts building. Like the juvenile courts. The clerk of court criminal court I mean the district attorneys also near the coroner's office the new corners building. Is being built in part with. Those funds from that two point nine Milledge so -- primary source of funding than is the city. Paying you to take care prisoners that's correct and you're you're right that that currently at least for this calendar year it's based upon headcount. A daily headcount. We really are moving away from that. And that's one of the key parts of the consent agreement is that we move away from that and we start being. Funded through budget. So it really shouldn't matter how many people cross the threshold. Because that's one of the things that is really exacerbated. Our financial position. So in for example in 2009. 63000. People got arrested. In 2012. About 35000. People got arrested. And that's a good thing because less people were being arrested. And brought to jail. And because some of those people probably shouldn't have been brought to jail. But when you look at what impact it has on. The finances because. You know I mean that's a part of running in operation. It had a negative and impact on that in his shouldn't have they shouldn't. We should be funded based upon our operations and -- based upon. Right simply head count of who their -- their. Has been some criticism. Of some of how you -- your money. Whether it be and I bring points that you are well aware of you know the exterminator for half a million dollars for the the legal group for really a large amount of money. -- this correct me if I'm wrong but 68000 every two weeks is a lot of money. You know we. That they're different ways that you can. Pay for legal services misses an arrangement that I inherited from the previous sheriff. We since renegotiated it and we've cut that in hand. And we also recently than a recently. And we also have. Billing. That we have to review now you know before. We really because we didn't have any lawyers on staff who were doing their legal work. We we you know really use them freely and it was. It was probably good. In the sense that you didn't have to worry about. Whether or that you were going to be builder not because you knew was when in the fled billing. But -- -- reform that we reform that. We're better on that now. And that just like I think the the whole thing with the exterminators got blown out of proportion. Because. We have. Multiple buildings. We were being compared to facilities that have one building we have multiple buildings or buildings buildings with a lot of cracks corners crevices. In OPP built in the 1920s. HOD. Built in the 1960s. You know so that's that's what we were dealing with. But you can understand where people would think. This is excessive. In a time when every dollar counts whether you're running -- city you're running a prison. That those might be very excessive the. I can understand that if that that's all you're doing is looking at a number and you know looking at what goes behind it. But look. We can always get better and then we've changed that practice. We were we've needed better. And you know gonna keep getting better. As you've said it's been quite a year because you've had done so many battles you've had battles with the consent -- you can battles with trying to build your jail. With criticisms of various. Not not just the whistle blower but others who. Frankly are saying. And this is just a difficult thing to say that your not a great manager. I think that's that's it that you have funds but they're not properly spent and this is one of the reasons we have an inhumane situation. And in you know a -- in the heat of battle in the heat of litigation. You see things like that fly around. What we've been able to do. Coming back from Katrina. Campaign. Are its sources of revenue. Greatly to -- depleted. Has really been remarkable. And you know those that. You know wanna sit in the stands -- on the sidelines and say he could've done better. CS lucrative but also say we've done a great job and doing. What we're doing with the limited resources that we head of look we're we're accredited by the national commission on correctional health care. We have vibrant. They reporting senator we re entry program a transitional work program. And electronic monitoring program. And we're doing a lot of services that are not only reducing the number of people incarcerated but it's also promoting safety. So yes you know you can. Pick though. A couple of instances where maybe I could have done this a little bit better maybe could have gotten a little bit. Less expensively. But. By and large when you look at everything you see that. The work that we're doing that progress there were making. On building improving. Is really I think very good. You would -- admit though that prior to this new day with all of the efforts that are going into place now that that it was a sad place. And a bad place. What we'll look. This again going back to where we started this used to be the eighth largest jail system in the country. It was notorious then and we have been. Decimated by Katrina. Coming back. You know the house of detention which is the building up closed now wanted to close it because it was. A very difficult. Very hard place that justice to be housed in the -- working and so we're we're we are shedding that was over almost two years ago that we did that. Other buildings we've torn -- -- torn down south towards street we've torn down to supplement three temperament for the old intake center. So you know we're we're moving forward. This has been a tough difficult journey but it's a journey that that we are. Working towards a goal that's going to make us. A model for the rest of the nation. One of the areas of the consent consent decree was for better training. Where are you in that. -- -- Have an academy. We do in service training. We're gonna improve all of that were eating the more instructors Stewart training. Force. One of the -- challenges you have some times is that. When you take people and put them in training the means you're taking them out of the workforce. In you still have. To supply someone who's going to be in that in that post so that means over time more money you have to spend. But but you know we're able and it's -- more deputies this year and we're -- bill would do more training. What is your greatest concern. My greatest concern is for us to be able to. Have -- safe modern secure facility. I think it starts with that and if you have. A place where people can. Be housed in. That's. Climate controlled. Where you can have a good safe sanitary. Environment. Good food service. Then you're going to be able to then take it to the next level. That's what we've been working on one of the things that we didn't do is that we didn't just put band aids. On the building that we can't. Which we -- down we stormed there was there were sub standard we tour down and we are going up and you see that building on the expressway. Doesn't even look like a jail. Because it's my honor and because -- hands things in this that 21 century GO facilities. It has. Now like our our current buildings where there's one yard for the whole building we have yards on each -- Not like the current buildings where we have one meeting space we have meeting spaces on -- next year multiple spaces on each for. These are all things that while they might sound. Trivial. -- really important in delivering services and keeping people occupied. And in improving outcomes. You know we're. We were able to move forward. And I think quicker through my biggest concern is getting this building -- so we can really. Be a model for the nation. I wanna thank sheriff marlin Stutzman. For coming on the show we want a -- from day one and you're here and I appreciated. And you answered some very tough questions and comments. And I understand exactly what you're saying it's been a very difficult. Wrote and we hope that dirt as the election progresses that you come back. Sure you'll be happy to see you glad to be here thank you very very much now let's join Dave Cullen in the newsroom.

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