Feds say Louisiana has held inmates past their legal release dates

When it comes to your civil rights inside the Criminal Justice System, Louisiana doesn’t exactly get an A on its report card.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 5:46 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 6:21 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When it comes to your civil rights inside the Criminal Justice System, Louisiana doesn’t exactly get an A on its report card. The Department of Justice issued a report showing that found Louisiana Department of Corrections kept inmates in prison longer than they were supposed to serve. Civil rights attorney, William Most, says he has at least two lawsuits for violations of the 14th amendment.

“I represent a range of people that have been held past their legal released dates by the Louisiana Department of Corrections. This is very encouraging. It shows that the U.S. Department of Justice reached the same conclusion that we did after seeing the evidence,” said Most.

The report claims between January and April of 2022, almost 27% of people released were held past their scheduled release dates. And of those inmates, 24% were held over for at least 90 days.

DOC released a statement shortly after the report hit newsrooms saying, “The Department of Corrections is currently reviewing the U.S. Department of Justice report that was released today. Without a full review of the report’s findings and documentation supporting said findings, it would be a challenge to provide a comprehensive response at this time. The Department of Corrections has been cooperative for the entire duration of the investigation, and we will continue to work with DOJ throughout this process”.

The report also says DOC was warned about its unconstitutional practice 10 years ago but failed to make changes.

“They kept that internal investigation a secret, they withheld that from the public but it eventually got out, but they did not fix the problem. So, to this day still, thousands of people are being held past their release dates,” Most added.

Between those 4 months, the report also says DOC had to pay parish jails an estimated $850,000 for the days those inmates were kept past their legal sentence. Costing you, the taxpayer, $2.5 million per year. The Assistant Attorney General of DOJ’s civil rights division says they stand ready to work with state officials to institute what they call long-overdue reforms.

Congressman Troy Carter (D) issued a statement saying,

“I am deeply angered by today’s news that the Department of Justice has determined the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections violated the Fourteenth Amendment. It is long past time that we reform this broken institution, and it is infuriating that the LDOC has known about this corruption for over a decade.

“Our correctional system should be focused on reform and rehabilitation. It is a basic responsibility of the State to guarantee that all incarcerated individuals are released in a timely manner. The civil rights of ALL people held in Louisiana’s jails is of the upmost importance and I will work to ensure that the LDOC enacts reforms to prevent future over detentions.

My heart breaks for everyone who has suffered at the hands of this unjust system. As a Black man and the father of two Black sons, I am acutely aware of the toll that systemic racial injustice has on our neighborhoods. I am committed to ending mass incarceration by investing in our communities, ending for-profit prisons, and supporting education and re-entry resources.”

The ACLU also issued a statement saying,

“Holding individuals in captivity beyond their release date erodes fundamental trust in the criminal legal system and violates the constitutional rights of incarcerated individuals, all while costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. We commend the Department of Justice for its diligent work to hold Louisiana’s law enforcement agencies accountable and protect the fundamental rights of our most vulnerable community members.

“As the prison capital of the world, Louisiana has a responsibility to end the needless brutality of over-incarceration. Too many people in our state, disproportionately people of color, face lengthy incarceration and are needlessly separated from their families and society. The ACLU of Louisiana is urging the Department of Corrections to immediately remedy the violations enumerated by the DOJ. We will never stop working to combat mass incarceration, advance racial equity, and prioritize people over prisons.

“When discussing public safety, we often ask ourselves whether people deserve to be incarcerated for the crimes they commit. For more than ten years, LDOC has been on notice of its failure to release people upon the fair and just completion of their sentence in accordance with the law. With such a damning track record of holding people beyond their release date, we should ask ourselves a different question: Does the state of Louisiana and LDOC deserve to incarcerate Louisianans?”

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