Gusman and Foti in runoff for Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office

Courtesy of Marlin Gusman and Charles Foti's Facebook pages
Courtesy of Marlin Gusman and Charles Foti's Facebook pages

As FOX 8 and first reported, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will be in a runoff with former sheriff Charles Foti. This comes after months of stinging headlines about conditions at Orleans Parish Prison, which Gusman runs.

Gusman almost beat Charles Foti, who is fighting for his old job. Ira Thomas, a former New Orleans Police Department officer, finished third.

Gusman has been dealing with several controversies, including the latest that involved an OPP inmate showing up high on drugs in criminal court. Gusman suspended some of his medical staffers as a result. The drug was a prescription opiate.

Gusman told FOX 8 he "inherited a mess" when he took over the prison. He said the 12 buildings were crumbling and Katrina devastated what he was given. The sheriff is moving forward with a master plan.  He said he takes responsibility for the incidents under his watch.

That plan includes a federally mandated overhaul of the prison. Even with the consent decree on the horizon, Gusman continued to be heavily criticized. Last year a video was released that showed inmates using drugs and waving a loaded gun in a cell.

The city will foot the bill for the reforms at a cost of more than $20 million dollars. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Gusman have traded barbs over how the consent decree should be financed.

Charles Foti dismissed the accusation that he left the parish jail in a mess after his tenure. The former sheriff held the job for nearly 30 years until he became the state's attorney general.

Foti said he could transform that jail with strong leadership and rehabilitation programs for the inmates and boot camps to instill discipline in them. Foti's critics said he was too heavy handed, using tactics like strip searches for people who were taken to jail for traffic offenses.

"It's no surprise that they are pointing fingers at each other, Charles Foti and Marlin Gusman have basically headed up the jail over the last several decades and so they can basically point fingers at each other over the conditions in the jail," said political analyst Ed Chervenak.

Both campaigns called the other the worse jail administrator.

The former president of the Orleans Parish School Board, Thomas, said it is time to stop electing politicians to run the jail.

Thomas said his law enforcement skills and administrative background were two key reasons he could be the city's next sheriff. He called Gusman and Foti "ill qualified to work effectively in a law enforcement environment."

Thomas is the police chief at Southern University of New Orleans.

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