Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator's remarks last week opposing the planned release of state prisoners have drawn national attention as racist.
Prator said at the Oct. 5 press conference that the release of prisoners under state prison reforms would increase crime in Caddo Parish.
"I wasn't elected to rehabilitate people. There needs to be more done before this law takes effect," Prator said. "This is too big of a risk we're taking."
In a story published online Oct. 12 by the New York Times, critics accuse Prator of racism for remarks during the press conference in which he described prisoners in state prisons as "bad" and state prisoners housed in parish jails as "good."
“In addition to the bad ones — and I call these bad — in addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money,” Prator said, according to the New York Times. “Well, they’re going to let them out.”
The Caddo Parish Correctional Center houses inmates for the Louisiana Department of Corrections in addition to parish inmates.
A representative of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund told the Times that Prator's remarks described economic exploitation.
“He’s opposing it because he’s going to lose good workers. It reeks of the issue of slavery," Angel Harris, an assistant counsel for the NAACP fund, told the Times.
The New York Times appears to have based its report on video from part of the press conference that was posted to Twitter by activist journalist Shaun King.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff, Cindy Chadwick, told the Times the part of video that King highlighted had been taken out of context. She said the sheriff did not mention race during the press conference.
Prator said: “My many years of public service prove beyond any doubt that I view all persons equally. To say or imply any differently is untruthful.”
The prison reforms were enacted as the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Package, a set of 10 bills to take effect Nov. 1. The package aims to save the state corrections system about $262 million over the next decade and reduce the Louisiana prison population by 10 percent.
Prator, like many Louisiana sheriffs, has opposed the reforms from the start. Others, such as probation officers, also have expressed concern.
But the reforms drew a majority of bipartisan support in the state legislature and from Gov. John Bel Edwards. They won the endorsements of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, business and faith leaders, and coalitions of advocates and community members across the political spectrum.
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