Here's where things stand at the end of this week.
At Gov. John Bel Edwards' daily press conference on Tuesday, Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc announced that he has plans to release what will amount to about 1,100 people. That's not even 2% of the total number of people incarcerated in Louisiana, not including those in ICE facilities or on probation or parole! Not only that, but the plan only applies to those who: are doing time for a nonviolent offense, are within six months of their release date, and already have a residence plan for their release. Even worse, the review board--which includes no formerly incarcerated people--didn't begin until today, will only look at 40 cases at a time, and will require 5 of 6 board members to vote in favor of release. This is a negligible plan that isn't informed by medical or public health experts, and doesn't actually create any true social distancing within facilities. Can you please call Gov. Edwards right now at 225-342-0991 and tell him we demand that more people, especially our elderly and immunocompromised loved ones, come home?! Then can you repeat this call every day, and encourage others to do the same?
Care of Incarcerated People with COVID
On Tuesday, our partners at the Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC has been transferring incarcerated people who test positive for COVID-19 from various jails and prisons around the state INTO Camp J, a condemned building at Louisiana State Penitentiary (commonly called Angola) instead of to hospitals, where they need to be. The DOC’s entire plan has been widely criticized by public health experts and civil rights advocates alike. Camp J is a notoriously inhumane facility that was designed as a punishment camp for those serving life without the possibility of parole. The lawsuit calls on the DOC to halt the plan immediately and ensure people with COVID-19 receive adequate care.
On Wednesday morning, Louisiana Republican lawmakers blocked an emergency election plan that would expand mail-in voting, early voting and make other changes to the state’s delayed presidential primary election because of the coronavirus pandemic. This has negative implications for ensuring fair and equitable elections, for our newly eligible voters with conviction histories, and for democracy as a whole.
Last, our first virtual VOTE meeting on Wednesday afternoon was a big success! At more than 100 attendees strong, we gathered online to support each other, answer as many questions as we could about our work and your loved ones on the inside, and discussed next steps in bringing our loved ones home. Watch a recap of the call here.