Criminal Justice/ Mass Incarceration
Pretrial Services & Prison Reentry
Pretrial Services: Too many citizens are sitting in jail in New Orleans simply because of their inability to pay the price of freedom set by a judge and not because of the danger they may pose to community. In line with article 1, Section 18 of the Louisiana Constitution we, the Micah Project, feel it is imperative to move away from wealth-based detention practices. For the city and taxpayers, this system of attacking the poor doesn’t even make economic sense. The only ones who benefit are the courts, who take in about $1 million each year, and the bail bondsmen who make over $4 million a year in profit off struggling New Orleans families. It also strongly illustrates racism in our criminal justice system due to the fact that 8 out of 10 people in jail are black. Micah leaders support the full transition to an evidence-based risk-assessment approach to determining who should be released and who must be detained through the proper use of a strong pretrial services program that follows these principles:
An overarching presumption of pretrial release, consistent with the presumption of innocence, rather than a de facto presumption of pretrial incarceration.
A commitment only to jail those deemed high risk regardless of their wealth.
A proactive approach to replacing the current system of funding the courts and other agencies through bail, fines, and fees levied against poor New Orleans families.
Ex-offender reentry programs are proven to help recidivism rates among all ex-offenders regardless of sex, race or creed. Many ex-offenders have a very hard time on the outside after serving their sentences. Ex-offenders have difficulties finding jobs, adequate housing or even attaining photo identification. These difficulties lead to more problems and often cause the ex-offender to get into trouble again. The purpose of ex-offender reentry programs is to mitigate these problems to allow the offender to concentrate on adjusting to life on the outside. Many programs offer short term housing, job assistance and often have other spiritual and therapy aspects within the program. Reentry programs also allow ex-offenders to befriend others that are in their same position. This offers a support system that can be helpful and also promotes a team environment. Some reentry programs are coed while other may only be for male or female ex-offenders. Micah leaders will continue to focus on efforts to strengthen prison reentry services through our successful “Welcome Home Sunday” events and by changing policies and practices in the state.
Over the past few years Micah has worked to develop stronger and more effective nonpartisan civic engagement strategies. In 2014 Micah engaged over 20,000 low-propensity voters from communities of color leading up to the 2014 election. This accomplishment was significant for two reasons; it marked an organizational understanding that Micah's power can be amplified through nonpartisan voter registration, voter education and GOTV efforts. In addition, by investing in leadership development, Micah set itself up as a credible voice leading up to the 2015 Gubernatorial election. In 2015, Micah, in partnership with one other organization, was able to make just over 115,000 voter contacts resulting in 90,000 conversations through the use of several phone banks, canvasses, mailers, and letters. During that campaign, Micah increased voter awareness around Louisiana's mass incarceration crisis and paved the way for a constructive working relationship with the newly elected Governor. In March of 2016, leading up to the primaries, Micah congregations led voter registration efforts and prepared their Get Out the Vote strategies. For example, St. Peter Claver helped register 200 new voters. In April 2016, Maria Harmon, Micah's Education Organizer, worked with 10 students who conducted door to door work leading up to the 2016 Presidential Primary Election. With support from Faith in Action/ formerly the PICO National Network, Micah clergy and congregations continue to prepare for voter registration and voter activation in November 2018 and beyond.
Crime/ Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. Human trafficking is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim's rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation. Human trafficking is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), forced labor alone (one component of human trafficking) generates an estimated $150 billion in profits per annum as of 2014. In 2012, the ILO estimated that 21 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 14.2 million (68%) were exploited for labor, 4.5 million (22%) were sexually exploited, and 2.2 million (10%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.
In the 21st century, modern slavery is often known as the crime of “human trafficking” (HT) — the exploitation of a person’s labor through force, fraud or coercion. Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. It is a heinous crime that forces children and adults to engage in commercial sexual activity or to labor without pay, against their will, under the threat of violence, and with little or no means of escape. There are more slaves today than at any other time in human history. Modern slavery is a diverse and complex human rights issue, and it is happening right here in our backyard in Southeast Louisiana. While citizens have begun to learn about this issue and legislators and activists have begun to respond, we are only at the beginning of a complicated struggle to yet again end slavery in our region. “Right now, people who want to escape slavery in New Orleans confront serious barriers. They are not aware of their rights, police are untrained to identify them as trafficking victims, there is a lack of safe shelters and alternative jobs, and most workers are unaware of their vulnerability to these risks,” said Dr. Laura Murphy, Director of the Modern Slavery Research Project. “At the heart of all these problems is a need for better informed approaches to the problem and research that supports the work of the critical service providers who are the first to identify and respond to trafficking victims’ needs