If you haven't heard, a lot has been happening with Orleans Parish Prison:
ACLU v. Public Defender: You have probably heard or read much about the ACLU lawsuit against the Public Defender for refusing cases. The ACLU is representing one of the people who has a constitutionally protected right to a lawyer. The state doesn't provide enough money to the public defender to give everyone a lawyer. The buck has to stop somewhere, and the lawyer's can't sue the state for more money- this is the best way to confront it. One solution the state should consider, however, is to stop clogging up the system with so many crimes, arrests, and prosecutions.
Solitary Confinement: VOTE staffers Norris Henderson and Bruce Reilly testified last week at the American Correctional Association's hearing to revise standards for solitary confinement. An issue highlighted by Albert Woodfox, the last incarcerated member of the Angola 3, who has been in solitary for over four decades. A week later, President Obama ended solitary confinement for children in federal custody. Some would say its a start. Keep in mind that the President and Congress do not have control over state prisoners, although the Supreme Court rulings apply to all people.
Juvenile Life Without Parole: This past week, the Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that the Miller ruling, barring mandatory Life Without Parole for children (but still allowing it in "rare" circumstances) is retroactive. This case, coming out of Louisiana, means over 300 people are now serving illegal mandatory sentences; they have a chance to get a lower sentence at another sentencing. They also have a constitutional right to a lawyer at this hearing. VOTE is working with others in the legal community to develop some systemic responses.
VOTE and Voting Rights
Over two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the list of jurisdictions that receive special coverage under the Voting Rights Act of 1965- including Louisiana, the epicenter of mass incarceration and the historical hotbed of race-based voter disenfranchisement. The Court requires Congress to create a new list of covered jurisdictions.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act would establish the strongest voting rights protections ever passed by Congress. It would require states with a history of recent voting discrimination to clear changes to voting laws with the Department of Justice, require any new state voter ID laws to be reviewed and approved by the federal government, and block new efforts to suppress African-American and Latino votes. Crucially, the bill would also give the U.S. attorney general the authority to send federal election observers to monitor elections in which there’s a risk of voting discrimination.
Sign the petition: Stop voter suppression and pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
VOTE is submitting legislation this session, and filing a lawsuit in 2016, to end felon disenfranchisement. Creating a new list of specially covered jurisdictions will provide strong momentum for our work.
New and Events
VOTE February Meeting
Wednesday, Feb. 10th @ 6pm
Leadership Development Institute - Week 4,
Thursday, Feb. 11th @ 7pm
We are continuing to expand and build so we can truly be the organization New Orleans and Louisiana deserves: A national leader on criminal justice reform. Please consider making a donation today!
Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition Meeting
Mondays, 4pm @ Hope House (No meeting Feb. 10th)
Greater New Orleans Organizers Roundtable,
(2nd Saturdays) Feb. 13th, 4pm @ Unitarian Universalist Church, 5212 S. Claiborne Ave
Development and Communications Director:
Please see the job description on our website. We are hoping to soon hire an amazing person with all the skills to help build this Movement!
Help us with your Administration, Legal, and Media skills! Those descriptions are also on the website, and are open to everyone.
VOTE draws its strength from membership. Be part of a historical pathway to change. Click here and join today!