ACLU calls state prison system's over-detention crisis 'unacceptable and unconstitutional'

By Carrie Bradon | Feb 21, 2019

A series of lawsuits are being filed on behalf of inmates that have been kept in Louisiana prisons for varying periods of time, ranging from weeks to years, after their release dates.

According to, civil rights attorneys filing the lawsuits are naming the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) as well as the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, alleging that both have failed to remedy an injustice that has occurring for years. The ACLU of Louisiana recently commented on the situation and the impacts it can have on communities and individuals as a whole.

"The chronic failure on the part of state and local officials to ensure the timely release of people who have completed their sentences is unacceptable and unconstitutional," Alanah Odoms Hebert told Louisiana Record. "Each additional day of incarceration has a devastating impact on families, communities and taxpayers."

The DOC and sheriff's office claim that clerical issues are at the heart of the problem, occasionally resulting in different calculation methods that can create a difference of weeks or months in a prisoner's official release date. Hebert said that the extension of release dates is not only inexcusable but illegal, and must be remedied.

Alanah Odoms Hebert   ACLU of Louisiana

"The courts have made clear that correction authorities have a legal obligation to release people who have completed their sentences," Hebert said. "Instead, too many Louisianans have been forced to languish behind bars for weeks and even months after their sentence has expired."

In addition to the civil rights issue that extension of jail time brings with it, there is also a cost to taxpayers, as it costs an average of $54.20 a day to house an inmate, which amounts to more than a thousand dollars per prisoner over the course of a month.

The lawsuits are ongoing and the process of reform is likely to be a lengthy one, but it must be handled with the cooperation of officials from various departments, Hebert says. 

"State and local officials must work together to address this grave injustice, as well as rein in the overuse of pretrial detention to incarcerate people who have not yet been tried or charged," she said.

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