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DOJ, ACLU: Louisiana violating 14th Amendment by jailing people months after they should be freed

26.8% of people released from custody between January to April 2022 were held past their release dates, potentially costing Louisiana millions of dollars.
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Silhouette of concertina barbed wire on a prison fence

BATON ROUGE, La. — The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that there is reasonable cause to conclude that Louisiana's corrections department routinely violates the Fourteenth Amendment by keeping individuals in custody when they should be released.

In a news release published Wednesday, the DOJ said the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDOC) denies individuals' due process rights to timely release from incarceration, failed to change policies that cause overdetentions, and is "deliberately indifferent" to those overdetentions.

"For more than 10 years, LDOC has been on notice of its overdetention problem and has failed to take adequate measures to ensure the timely releases of incarcerated individuals from its custody," the DOJ said.

According to the DOJ, 26.8% of people released from LDOC custody between January to April 2022 were held past their release dates. Of those people who were over-detained, nearly 1-in-4 were held over for at least 90 days. The median number for those days over-detained was 29.

"In this four-month period, LDOC had to pay parish jails an estimated $850,000 in fees for the days those individuals were kept in custody beyond their lawful sentences," the DOJ said. "At this rate, this unconstitutional practice costs Louisiana over $2.5 million a year."

“The Constitution guarantees that people incarcerated in jails and prisons may not be detained beyond their release dates, and it is the fundamental duty of the State to ensure that all people in its custody are released on time,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.

In a statement from the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday, the group echoed the DOJ's complaints. Calling on the state to change its prison practices. 

"As the prison capital of the world, Louisiana has a responsibility to end the needless brutality of over-incarceration," The statement read. "Too many people in our state, disproportionately people of color, face lengthy incarceration and are needlessly separated from their families and society." 

The ACLU went on to question the state of Louisiana and the LDOC's creditability when it comes to handling the state's prison population. 

"We often ask ourselves whether people deserve to be incarcerated for the crimes they commit," The ACLU statement said. "With such a damning record of holding people beyond their release date, we should ask ourselves a different question: Does the state of Louisiana and LDOC deserve to incarcerate Louisianans?" 


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