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
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
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.”
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
“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.”
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.