Yesterday, the Department of Justice issued a report finding that Louisiana’s longstanding practice of overdetaining freed prisoners violates the US Constitution. The DOJ investigation determined that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDOC) “incarcerates thousands of individuals each year beyond their legal release dates in violation of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. These violations are pursuant to a pattern or practice of infringements on the constitutional rights of incarcerated persons.”
According to the report, the DOJ found that from January 2022 to April 2022, 26.8% of the people who were legally entitled to be released from state custody, some for minor crimes or first-time offenses, were held past their release dates. About 24 percent of those improperly detained had been held 90 days or longer past their release dates.
The report states: “As a result of the systemic deficiencies identified in our investigation, thousands of individuals annually suffer the significant harm of having their freedom unconstitutionally denied by their overdetention in LDOC’s custody. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically increased the harms associated with overdetention, as the correctional environment carries an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19 and because of the general inability to maintain social distancing in such settings.”
The DOJ’s report builds on litigation initiated by Loevy & Loevy, alongside other advocates in Louisiana. Loevy & Loevy, in collaboration with the Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) and the Most & Associates law firm, is currently litigating two class action lawsuits against the LDOC to end its harmful and unacceptable practice and obtain compensation for the thousands of Louisianans who have been injured by these unlawful practices. Read the full Department of Justice report here.