Louisiana correction authorities routinely confine thousands of inmates beyond their release dates each year, in violation of the Constitution and wasting taxpayer funds, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.
Overdetention is not unheard of in other states, nor in federal facilities, but the scale of Louisana’s actions — which the Justice Department attributed to state authorities being “deliberately indifferent” to “systemic” shortcomings — is significant. (If Louisiana were a country, it would have world’s most incarcerated population on a per capita basis, according to the Prison Policy Initiative research and advocacy group.)
More than a quarter of the people due for release each year in Louisiana since at least 2012 were held past their release dates, according to the Justice Department, which began investigating the state with three U.S. Attorneys’ offices in late 2020. And about a quarter of people who were held beyond their release date between January and April 2022 — the most recent period for which data is available — were kept for at least 90 extra days.
U.S. officials also allege that the state continued with the practices despite repeated notices from the federal government in the last decade. They say Louisiana’s actions are a violation of the 14th Amendment, which prevents authorities from depriving people of their liberty without due process. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reported earlier this month:
Breakfast at Louisiana’s state Capitol includes fresh coffee, cookies and egg sandwiches — made and served in part by incarcerated people working for no pay.
“They force us to work,” said Jonathan Archille, 29, who is among more than a dozen current and formerly incarcerated people in Louisiana who told The Washington Post they have felt like enslaved people in the state’s prison system.
Archille said prison staff had even used that term against him. “You’re a slave — that’s what they tell us,” he said. [Continue reading…]
In November, The Center for Public Integrity reported:
Today’s prison labor practices are seen by many as direct descendants of post-emancipation Black Codes and convict leasing systems that disproportionately arrested, convicted and imprisoned Black people, and then leased them to private contractors and landowners or used them as a captive and woefully underpaid work force for public works projects and services. It was a system designed to continue slavery after it was abolished.
There’s no meaningful comparison between the conditions of today’s prison labor system and the brutality of convict leasing. Nor is prison labor a critical part of the economy as it was 125 years ago, said Douglas A. Blackmon, author of “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.” Still, some things haven’t changed.
“Personal profit in the system is an opening for justice to be corrupted,” Blackmon, a professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said in an interview.
Every year, prison laborers produce more than $2 billion in goods and commodities and more than $9 billion in services to maintain the prisons where they are incarcerated, according to a 2022 report by the American Civil Liberties Union and the University of Chicago Law School Global Human Rights Clinic.
“Prisons are run by incarcerated people,” said Bruce Reilly, deputy director of Voice of the Experienced, a nonprofit focused on criminal justice reform in Louisiana that’s led by the formerly incarcerated. “[Louisiana prisons] would have to double their budget if they hired staff.” [Continue reading…]