Louisiana Record

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Inmates released following lawsuit claiming illegal detention

By Chandra Lye | Jan 25, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — A pair of inmates have been released after a social justice organization filed a lawsuit on their behalf claiming they were being illegally detained in East Carroll Parish.

Jessie Crittindon and Eddie Copelin were released by the Louisiana Department of Corrections on Jan. 13. Their release came a day after the lawsuit was filed by the MacArthur Justice Center.

One of the lawyers at the firm said that taxpayers were paying to keep these people in jail illegally and believes there are more like Crittindon and Copelin.

Katie Schwartzmann, the co-director of the MacArthur Justice Office in New Orleans, told The Louisiana Record that the organization was “working on identifying people and ensuring that those people are processed.”

“It is unclear to us really what happened,” she said, adding that the lawsuit held the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, Department of Corrections and East Carroll Parish Sheriff’s office responsible for the situation.

“And all three of those agencies are pointing fingers at each other about what went wrong. We still are unclear on who dropped the ball,” she said.

In a press release by the MacArthur Justice Office, Schwartzmann called for the end of inmates being placed in East Carroll Parish.

“This must not be dismissed as a simple bureaucratic mistake,” Schwartzmann said in the release. “It’s as serious of a constitutional violation as one can think of. And the lack of concern with which our Dec. 28 letter was treated by the East Carroll authorities is a clear indication that this facility is unfit for the continued housing of prisoners.”

Schwartzmann also claimed that the staff at the jail had obstructed the organization’s efforts to interview people at the facility.

“This raises questions about why the East Carroll Parish jail is being used as a detention facility by Orleans Parish and by the Department of Corrections,” Schwartzmann said in the news release. “We have seen deeply troubling patterns in the time that Orleans prisoners have been held there. Now it is clear that they cannot even process basic information about whether they have the legal authority to detain the men in their custody. The use of East Carroll by the State and Orleans Parish should end as quickly as possible.”

Court documents showed that Crittindon who was arrested in July 2014 and he was transferred to East Carroll Parish in May 2016. He had been sentenced to serve two years and six months and was awarded credit for time served. In August 2016, he was eligible for release as he had served two years. His family had been told that he was eligible, but that they were working on his paperwork.

Schwartzmann said they believe there could be more than 100 additional inmates at the jail who are eligible for release.

The city’s newest jail opened in 2015 but did not have enough trained staff to handle all the inmates. Therefore, hundreds of prisoners were sent to East Carroll Parish, which is in northeastern Louisiana.

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Organizations in this Story

Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office