Multiple lawsuits have recently been filed on behalf of individuals being held in Louisiana prisons past their release dates, a practice that costs taxpayers thousands and violates the rights of those inmates who have fulfilled the requirements of their sentences.
According to Nola.com, it is not uncommon for prisoners to remain locked up for weeks, months or even years after their court-appointed release dates. Civil rights attorneys are taking up the fight against the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) and local sheriffs' offices for their alleged negligence.
Attorneys filing the lawsuits claim the problem has been known about for years but that no one has been able to correct it, despite the fact that taxpayers are footing the bills resulting from over-detention. Pelican Institute for Public Policy recently commented on this failure in Louisiana's justice system and the far-reaching damage it can cause.
"Keeping people jailed beyond their release date is not only harmful to the individuals and their families, but it also burdens taxpayers and results in reduced participation in the workforce," Daniel Erspamer, CEO of Pelican Institute, told Louisiana Record.
One of the major contributors to the over-detention issue, lawyers allege, is the DOC's outdated data system, the Criminal and Justice Unified Network — CAJUN — that routinely offers inconsistent data that can negatively impact the release dates of inmates. Another factor, the DOC and sheriff's offices claim, is that a variety of calculation methods are in play at once, creating inaccuracies.
Pelican Institute claims that the over-detention is just another example of how desperately reform is needed in the justice system in the state of Louisiana.
"Louisiana’s broken criminal justice system has served as a frequent reminder of the dangers of the heavy hand of government," Erspamer said." While the bi-partisan criminal justice reforms passed in 2017 have taken great strides to right the wrongs of the past, it is clear that significant challenges still exist. Louisianans need fewer barriers to jobs and opportunity, not more."