December 18, 2020
New Orleans, La – Over 75 members of the medical community signed on to a letter urging Governor John Bel. Edwards and the Department of Corrections to use all mechanisms possible to release incarcerated people at high risk of complications as a result of COVID. The request details the rising number of infections in Louisiana’s jails and prisons, and calls for the release of the elderly and medically vulnerable. “As providers and future providers of medical care in Louisiana, we cannot in good conscience sit by and watch these patients continue to be needlessly held in jail and prison while the pandemic continues its unrelenting attack on our state, our communities, and our loved ones. We urge you to seriously consider the release of all elderly and medically vulnerable people from jail and prison. We would all be safer this holiday season if you acted now.” The letter can be read here.
Earlier this week, The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) released an extensive report detailing Louisiana officials’ failure to prevent the spread of COVID in carceral facilities. The report titled Locked in with COVID-19: A Review of How the 2020 Pandemic Ravaged Louisiana’s Prisons, Jails, and Detention Centers describes how the inaction of leaders at all levels led to widespread infection and the untimely deaths of incarcerated people and DOC staff. The report states that, “it is clear that the state has done too little, and the little they did came too late. Despite its constitutional and moral obligations to protect those in its care, the state expended little to no effort on those in its custody. Efforts by a few were overwhelmed by contempt from the many, resulting in the deaths of at least 31 incarcerated people over a 7- month period.”
Staff attorney Rebecca Ramaswamy said, “Those responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities abandoned this duty by equating safety with maximizing the number of people behind bars.”
PJI has organized faith leaders, people formerly incarcerated during COVID, family members of people still incarcerated, and members of the medical community to spur state officials into action and send vulnerable community members home for the holidays. These efforts will culminate in a gathering at the Governor’s Mansion this Saturday, December 19th. The Caravan for Justice will be held in partnership with the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition (EBRPPRC) and meet at 10:30 am at the intersection of Emile and Badley Streets in Baton Rouge. Attendees will show support to those held inside the East Baton Rouge Parish jail and continue on to the Governor’s Mansion with a plea for him to grant pending and forthcoming compassionate release requests and sign all pardon recommendations before the holidays. Masks and social distancing are required. Members of the press and public are invited to attend.
Director of Civil Litigation, Promise of Justice Initiative