Civil rights attorneys alleging that prison inmates in Louisiana are routinely kept far past their release dates have begun to file a number lawsuits against the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.
According to Nola.com, though individual cases vary, inmates are consistently being imprisoned for weeks and months past their court-assigned release dates. In the most extreme cases, the site reports, years have passed between some prisoners' release dates and their actual releases.
William Most of the Law Office of William Most in New Orleans is one of the attorneys representing inmates in the matter. He recently spoke about the situation and the allegations that it has been allowed to persist for many years.
"There is a growing awareness -- and a growing anger -- about Louisiana's epidemic of over-detention," Most told Louisiana Record. "More and more people are coming out with stories about how they and their family members were held past their release dates."
According to TheAppeal.com, Most has been vocal about what constitutes over-detention, claiming that keeping an individual so much as 30 minutes past their release date qualifies.
The causes of Louisiana's over-detention epidemic has yet to be determined, though the DOC and sheriff's department claim that it comes down to a simple difference of calculation methods, which can result in release dates that vary by weeks or months. One culprit may be the DOC's data system, Criminal and Justice Unified Network, or CAJUN, which has been prone to inaccuracies in record-keeping.
An overhaul of the system was attempted in 2015, but it cost $3.6 million and was abandoned after less than two months because of new complications that were arising. Most, however, is optimistic that changes may in fact be made, but he concedes that it cannot happen overnight.
"My hope is that these lawsuits provide an incentive for the state and sheriffs to work together to fix the system," Most said. "It will be remedied when the necessary state actors accept that they have a problem and commit themselves to fixing it."