Justice We Shall Pursue Action
On April 24, over 400 local faith leaders gathered at Household of Faith Family Worship Church International, where Deputy Mayor Andrew Kopplin, Commissioner James Carter, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and a representative from Councilwoman Guidry's office agreed to implement specific measures to reduce unnecessary pre-trial incarceration.
Building on extensive research, local leaders posed three specific policy changes based on extensive research to change how Orleans Parish pre-trial system functions. Watch part of the research presentation. These changes would mean that people who are not a threat to our safety or a flight risk can return home to their families and their jobs while they await their trial. Approximately 800 people had signed a petition with the three demands before the evening began; another 250 signed that night.
All representatives agreed to:
- Fully support and fund the new Pre-trial Services Program
Meet with Micah leaders in August to discuss the program's performance during its first three months of operation
Decommission all other beds once construction of the new jail is completed so that Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) will only have 1,438 beds for pre-trial detainees
Replace OPP's per diem budget with a fixed budget for fiscal year 2013.
Together, these important reforms will help us to make our city's justice system more just and allow those accused of petty crimes to return home to their families and their employment while they await their trial.
The new Pre-trial Services Program, which is set to start operating on April 30, will quickly determine whether someone accused of a crime is a threat to the community or a flight risk and if not, they will be able to return home to their family without paying bail. Currently, almost everyone is required to pay bail regardless of the crime, so that oftentimes people accused of petty crimes are forced to wait in jail for months before they even go to trial.
Last night Lloyd Every III, a substance abuse counselor, stood up in front of the church and offered testimony about how, after an altercation, he spent two months in jail because he couldn't pay bail. As he said, "It was like I was being jailed for being poor. No cash, no freedom. And that's not right."
Representatives also agreed to close down all other facilities operated by OPP once construction on the new facility is complete. This measure will cap the capacity at 1,438 beds for pre-trial detainees. Currently, New Orleans' jail is three times the size of other cities with the same population.
Finally, OPP currently receives money per prisoner per day, which creates a perverse incentive to lock up more people.
Micah leaders believe that taken together, these changes will prevent unnecessary pre-trial incarcerations and will help to make our city safer. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 1 in 55 people currently incarcerated, but New Orleans still has the highest murder rate in the United States. In the words of Pastor Barriere, the pastor of Household of Faith, "If arresting people made a city safer, we would have the safest city in the United States. But clearly we don't. Instead, arresting people breeds crime...young men and women come out hopeless and angry and run into other hopeless and angry young men and women."
Newly-elected Councilmember-at-Large Stacy Head, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, and Police Chief Ronal Serpas also attended the event
Micah leaders will also attended the City Council Criminal Justice Committee meeting the next day at City Hall to urge city council to work to implement these changes.
Read more about the action in the Times-Picayune.