DSA New OrleansFall 2021

Voter Guide

Criminal Justice


Inmate Mark Walker, who is legally blind, said, "I have been raped, beat up by guards, jumped by prisoners, had my stuff stolen, and denied access to mental health care. Nobody, especially those of us with a physical or mental disability are safe here.” Inmate Steven Dominick said, "Guards do nothing to prevent violence. In fact they often instigate it. I have had to apply pressure to knife wounds and called family members to call 911 since guards refuse to help."

- Group files lawsuit against Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman

During Hurricane Katrina, Sheriff Marlin Gusman (D) abandoned thousands of people “in their cells without food or water for days as floodwaters rose toward the ceiling.” In 2009, the Department of Justice found that Gusman failed to protect people from harm and failed to provide adequate healthcare, suicide prevention measures, and humane conditions of confinement. DOJ put the jail under a federal consent decree in 2013, calling it a “violent and dangerous institution.” Gusman was so unfit that in 2016 the consent decree monitors replaced him with a compliance director to literally do his job for him (did we mention the city gives this clown $50 million a year?). Gusman’s jail has killed at least 65 people since he took office, and that count would be higher but for his practice of releasing gravely ill people from custody so that their deaths won’t be counted against him. With the help of Oliver Thomas, City Council candidate for District E, Gusman invited cameras into the jail for the exploitative Netflix flop Jailbirds. His employees complain of a culture of sexual harassment and assault, and his tenure has been rife with corruption, including trading nepotism hires, construction deals, and bribes with the family of local judge Paul Sens. For his torture dungeon’s ongoing patronage, Gusman gets hefty campaign bribes from representatives of Tiger Correctional Services, Summit Food Service Management, Correctional Food Services, Ozanne Construction Company, Grace Hebert Curtis Architects, Urban Systems Inc., Orleans charter school outfitter Uniforms by Logo Express, predatory prison phone company Securus, South East Louisiana Building & Construction Trades Council, GNO AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 478. With so many friends in construction and facilities management, it’s no wonder that Gusman’s eager to build Phase III, a brand new 89-bed psychiatric jail that would be largely run by substandard care and avoidable death provider Wellpath.

Susan Hutson (D) and her campaign of progressive promises has collected endorsements from formerly incarcerated persons group Voters Organized to Educate, Step Up, Flip the Bench supporters PAC for Justice, the public defenders of NOLA Defenders, and New Orleans Rising. Before this campaign, she was the city’s Independent Police Monitor, an office created to bring transparency and accountability to NOPD. She is a board member of Court Watch NOLA and a participant in the People’s DA Coalition, and was previously a prosecutor, defense attorney, and assistant city attorney, and performed civilian oversight of police in Austin and Los Angeles. Her campaign donors largely comprise civil rights attorneys and advocates and progressive PACs. At the Players Coalition forum she expressed her opposition to the Phase III new jail construction, said Wellpath provides substandard care, and declared she would terminate the Securus phone contract and absorb the costs into the sheriff’s budget. She does keep aligning her candidacy with that of DA Jason Williams last year, who ran as a progressive reformer and has done some progressive reform but has also charged 15-year-olds as adults after promising that he wouldn’t.

Janet Hays (no party) declared she would run against Gusman if he sought to build the Phase III jail. This is part of her years-long effort to expand mental health treatment and intervention outside of the criminal legal system, with a focus on loosening psychiatric commitment laws and investing in assisted (involuntary) outpatient treatment. Specifically as sheriff, Hays plans to reject both building a new Phase III jail as well as retrofitting the 2015 Phase II jail you now see off of I-10. Instead, she wants to build a new psychiatric jail in New Orleans for the acutely mentally ill, run by the state’s Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System. Her earlier work includes a campaign to repurpose Charity Hospital as an inpatient psychiatric center, founding local mental health treatment advocacy group Healing Minds NOLA, and opposing the construction of Phase II. Her donors appear to be mainly family and friends, and her social media footprint is generally liberal, though she does express concerns about safe injection sites.

Christopher Williams (D) has been police chief at the VA Hospital and Dillard University, a sheriff’s deputy from ’88 to ‘91, and spent 31 years in the army. His policing experience leads naturally to his primary goal of using the sheriff’s office as a supplemental police force to assist NOPD (in other parishes, sheriffs are the policing authority, but Orleans has its own police department tasked with most of that responsibility), and his lack of non-policing experience leads to his desire for a specialty juvenile curfew unit. He supports building the Phase III jail expansion because there’s federal funding available for it, but he opposes charging for phone calls and says recording phone conversations is a violation of rights. His campaign donations appear to be modest sums from personal connections.

Quentin R. Brown Jr. (I) has previously run for City Council, mayor, sheriff, and governor. He owns a lawncare business and is running as “a regular citizen that cares for change and an end to the BS in city government.” He does not accept campaign donations.

Clerk, Criminal District Court

During the 15 years that his employees sorted court files (or delayed justice for those convicted by split juries), ran the bail window (or closed it unannounced), handled expungements (a racket, but less so because of the clerk), and ran polling locations, retiring Criminal District Court Clerk Arthur Morrell occasionally showed up at the office come election time. The first challenge for his successor will be to do what Morrell repeatedly promised but never did: move this stuff online like other parishes so people could easily get court information and submit paperwork. Now who knows which candidate, if any, will actually follow through on their uniformly vague pledges of “technology and efficiency upgrades,” because the real prize here is a 6-figure bureaucratic title with a $4 million budget and a prominent perch from which to build a political fiefdom and retirement fund. So whom do we anoint next?

First City Court Clerk Austin Badon (D) represents BOLD, which largely opposed the progressive Flip the Bench and Erase the Board efforts in last year’s criminal court and school board elections. He accepted contributions from a slew of developers including Robert Merrick and Sidney Torres IV, charter school profiteer Leslie Jacobs, disaster profiteer Raju Sadwani, Frank “not disputing that I masturbated in an Uber” Scurlock (that’s a nickname, not a direct quote, don’t bother suing us), and Richard’s Disposal, which is currently profiting from not being Metro Service Group. As landlords line up to make people homeless, Badon’s been encouraging renters to work out payment plans with them and apply for rental assistance. He’s also written a letter to the governor asking to extend the moratorium. As a state representative, Badon voted to expand parole eligibility and loosen marijuana restrictions, as well as for equal pay for state employees, but restricted abortion access by requiring providers to have hospital admitting privileges, expanded private school vouchers, and wrote legislation to further criminalize sex work. He has, however, committed to dedicating a staff member to assist with the intentionally inaccessible expungement process.

Second City Court Clerk Darren Lombard (D) worked under Arthur Morrell and has his endorsement, as well as those of Cedric Richmond, Troy Carter, formerly incarcerated persons group VOTE, and, presumably, his wife, Magistrate Judge Juana Lombard. His big-money contributions come from a long list of personal injury lawyers, Ike Spears, and the aforementioned Metro Service Group. Campaign finance reports show his campaign is already a hub of political patronage, including donations to Richmond, Carter, Freddie King, Kern Reese, Joseph Bouie, Byron Lee, Adonis Expose, and a number of churches. In his VOTE survey, Lombard demonstrated better than his competitors his familiarity with H.B. 378, a major VOTE priority that expanded voting rights among those with felony convictions.

Patricia Boyd-Robertson (D) is a professor of public administration at SUNO. Her plans for moving the office online are as unformulated as her pledges to “improve service” and “connect with stakeholders,” but she did tell the League of Women Voters that she’ll notify voters whose registration is set to be purged. Her experience is heavy on accounting, including serving as Accounting Supervisor in Criminal Court from 2004-2005, and it also includes running a financial services company, a tutoring group, and the Conference of Minority Public Administrators. Her donations largely come from family and friends.