NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has concluded there is reasonable cause to believe that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDOC) routinely confines people in its custody past the dates when they are legally entitled to be released from custody, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms responds below:
“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?”
Among the myriad violations noted by DOJ, it concluded that: 1) LDOC denies individuals’ due process rights to timely release from incarceration; 2) LDOC’s failure to implement adequate policies and procedures causes systemic overdetention; and 3) LDOC is deliberately indifferent to the systemic overdetention of people in its custody. As required by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the DOJ provided LDOC with written notice of the supporting facts for these findings and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them.