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MacArthur Files Suit Against Illegal Jail Time

NEW ORLEANS – After moving New Orleans prisoners hundreds of miles away to a jail in East Carroll Parish, state and local officials are now failing to release men who have completed their sentences and should have been freed months ago, according to lawsuits filed Thursday by lawyers with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans.

The petitions ask the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to order their immediate release. The respondents in the cases are the Louisiana Department of Corrections, the East Carroll Parish Sheriff, and the Independent Jail Compliance Director at the Orleans Parish Jail.

“We believe Mr. Crittindon and Mr. Copelin are just the beginning, and that there are others just like them who have served their time and should now be free to come home. But instead they remain in jail due to the failure of these agencies to timely provide for their release,” said Katie Schwartzmann, co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center.

There has been a breakdown in the process of releasing prisoners or sending them to DOC once they are sentenced by the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. This is resulting in very serious delays in calculating when a sentence has ended, according to the Justice Center.

“We have received numerous calls and reports from persons held in East Carroll,” said attorney Emily Washington. “We reached out to the Compliance Director, to the East Carroll facility, and to the Department of Corrections in December. And we were told that action was being taken to resolve the problem. Yet we continue to hear from persons at East Carroll – that their paperwork has not been processed, that their time has not been calculated, and for some, that they are being held in custody far beyond their release date. The failure of these agencies to immediately correct this problem, when people’s liberty is at stake, is unconscionable.”

“Our office put the Department of Corrections and East Carroll Parish on notice that they are detaining people illegally. We advised them of this weeks ago,” Schwartzmann added. “The lack of a sense of urgency to fix this is appalling. We had no choice other than to sue to start trying to get people out of jail. In addition to people missing the holidays with their families, the taxpayers are paying to illegally house people in jail right now.” 

A copy of the Petition is available here»

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