Oct 9, 9:13 PM EDT

New Orleans mayor, sheriff meet over prisoner dispute

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman had little to say after meeting Friday in a federal judge's chambers to discuss their long-running differences over Gusman's management of the city's jail.

Landrieu declined to comment. A bit later, Gusman said, "We're going to continue these discussions in hopes of reaching a resolution."

The two disagree over Gusman's policy of housing state prisoners at the recently opened jail building while sending many local pretrial detainees to other parish jails several hours away.

In a statement later Friday, Landrieu spokeswoman Sarah McLaughlin reiterated the mayor's position and said the mayor "believes the discussions are on the right path."

"As he has done in the past, the mayor laid out our position that state inmates ought to be transferred to state prisons and that local pre-trial detainees should be brought back to New Orleans," she said.

The city funds the jail, which is operated by Gusman.

Landrieu and Gusman have been at odds over whether more new jail space should be built and over the cost of reforms ordered by the federal court.

Last month, a modern $150 million jail opened. The transfer of prisoners to the modern facility from an aging jail complex was seen as a major step in reforming a jail where suicides, inmate violence, drug use and escapes were recurring problems.

However, Gusman drew the ire of city officials and inmate lawyers when, before the new jail opened, he transferred close to 200 local pre-trial prisoners to other parishes, while keeping some 300 state inmates. Gusman defends the move, saying many of the state inmates are nearing the end of their sentences and are part of a successful program preparing convicts to re-enter society.

The new jail holds more than 1,400 inmates. Gusman wants the city to build additional jail space. The city has resisted, citing costs and its effort to find alternatives to incarceration.

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