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There’s a new sheriff in town in New Orleans and her name is Susan Hutson.
Voters in Orleans Parish made Hutson the first Black woman sheriff to be elected in Louisiana’s history on Saturday, according to The Times-Picayune. The former independent police monitor and progressive first-time candidate handed a surprising defeat to 17-year incumbent Marlin Gusman Saturday night, securing 53% of the vote to Gusman’s 47%, according to WWL-TV.
Gusman won 48% of the vote to Hutson’s 35% during last month’s primary election, according to WGNO, but neither candidate obtained the required 50% to win the race, which led to Saturday’s runoff.
Hutson celebrated her victory at Clesi’s Seafood Restaurant in New Orleans Saturday night.
“History has been made,” she wrote on Facebook early Sunday morning. “I am so proud and humbled to call myself your next Sheriff. A huge thank you to all of our campaign staff, our community organizers, the religious community, nonprofits, neighbors and friends. Let’s get to work.”
The Orleans Parish sheriff’s primary responsibility is presiding over the region’s jail, WWL reports.
Some regarded the result as a rebuke against Gusman’s controversial tenure presiding over Orleans Parish Correctional Center, which has a long sordid history of overcrowding, bad mental health care and other abuses.
Gusman was named in a 2012 lawsuit accusing the jail of failing to prevent routine beatings, rape and other sexual abuse. The suit led to a 2013 federal government consent decree to establish reforms. The suit and a leaked 2009 video showing inmates doing drugs, brandishing firearms and drinking alcohol inside the jail led to a 2013 federal consent decree to establish reforms.
Gusman took additional heat in September when Netflix began streaming Jailbirds. The series detailing the lives of female inmates at Orleans Parish Jail at one point shows at least one inmate using drugs in the facility, according to The Times-Picayune. Opponents criticized Gusman for allowing the series to be shot.
Gusman wanted to build a new 89-bed jail facility to house inmates suffering from mental health issues, according to The Times-Picayune and WGNO. Hutson has prioritized reforming the existing jail, not building a new one, which she has said will lead to more people being incarcerated.
Voters sided with Hutson, who received a pivotal endorsement from Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, another progressive candidate who won his race last year.
“The people and I are with Susan for Sheriff because we agree that after 17 years with no significant improvements, it is time for a fresh and innovative approach,” Williams told reporters and his supporters at a late November press conference, according to Gambit.
Williams’ endorsement was regarded as a “huge” boost to Hutson’s campaign by Norris Henderson, executive director and founder of Voice of the Experienced, a grassroots criminal justice reform advocacy group.
“Jason Williams was elected as our district attorney last year because people are tired of this same old same,” Williams told Gambit in late November. “Susan Hutson is going to bring the Sheriff’s office out of the Jim Crow era once and for all.”
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