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Have a heart! Help fight mass incarceration...
Orleans Public Defenders (OPD) fights to make a difference in their clients’ lives in the courtroom and beyond and creates meaningful reform for a fair and just criminal justice system. How can you make a difference?
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Learn more from the Free Your Art blog series:
12. Lock and Key
We art here. For thousands of years people have had many conflicts about finance. In Louisiana current public issues have been created by many laws and regulations that divide the entire nation into classes, enabling wealthier people to profit off of labor from lower income workers. NPR highlighted results of racist policies continuing a history of white privilege in an article that questioned America's racial wealth gap during April 2013. Los Angeles Times disclosed how policy choices worsen inequality including tax cuts to benefit the wealthy by eliminating estate taxes and lowering taxes for "pass-through" businesses December 2017. Such constructs extend directly into our criminal justice system.
“For too many people in New Orleans, the difference between spending the night in jail or in their home comes down to what's in their wallet.” Jailing people just because they cannot afford bail does not make anyone safer. A joint op-ed written by Saints players Demario Davis and Benjamin Watson was published September 2018 on Nola.com about ending the money bail system. “In 2015, New Orleans spent $6.4 million to keep people in jail who couldn't pay their bond. That money could have been used to fund our struggling educational system, to support job training, or provide affordable housing - all things that keep people out of jail.” Poverty is treated as a punishment in a world where rich people can buy their way out of serious crimes while the poor sit in jail for lack of bail money.
As reported on by community outlets (such as American Association of Geographers in February 2018, Washington Post in October 2017, and American Civil Liberties Union in June 2017), our current state policy in action is providing free labor to the sheriff's department. It has nothing to do with public safety, redemption, restoration, or self-improvement. Saving money is valued more than others' lives. More than 800 out of every 100,000 residents are imprisoned (if including statistics by the ACLU of Louisiana, LA incarceration rates have been double the U.S. average at 1,619:100,000). The ratio of African Americans, who make up only 32% of Louisiana's population, outnumber whites in incarceration by an evaluation of 2:1. These are just Louisiana state statistics.
Because the U.S. mainly imprisons the lower class, people of color are at an extremely unequal risk of being jailed. People’s Policy Project published a piece on advocating for racial equality in mass incarceration January 2018, “In 2010, white people were incarcerated at a rate of 450 per 100,000 while black people were incarcerated at a rate of 2,306 per 100,000.” Research by the Equal Justice Initiative shows that the U.S. only has 5% of the world's population but nearly 25% of its prisoners. What about progress?
Creativity for social change... $1 from each ticket sale is donated to OPD from every show hosted by Deaf Child*.
Approximately 50 full-time attorneys, court support, client service specialists, social workers, investigators, and more provide meaningful representation to OPD's clients and is the benchmark for indigent defense in Louisiana. Three ways OPD directly works on behalf of the community:
Every client is represented by a dedicated team: attorney, investigator, client advocate, social worker, and court support administrator. Attorneys and investigators work tirelessly to build the best possible defense for each individual client. Attorneys zealously litigate pretrial issues such as evidence suppression, speedy trial, double jeopardy, and Brady violations, plus try dozens of cases a year.
Social workers and client advocates recommend alternatives to incarceration as well as connect clients to community-based social services, treatment programs, job and housing placement. They also work for language access, medical advocacy, client safety and eligibility for specialty courts, re-entry and jail programming.
Special Litigation attorneys effect reform through impact litigation and policy advocacy on behalf of OPD and their clients in state and federal district courts, courts of appeal, Louisiana and U.S. Supreme Courts, and the judiciary committees of the Louisiana legislature.
Prison Legal News on motivation to keep people incarcerated, March 2017:
“Sheriffs build prisons, and they make money off of those prisons by housing state prisoners, which is good, it can do more for its citizens, it creates jobs, but because those prisons need to make a profit, we have to put more people in there," stated Paul Carmouche, who served as a Caddo Parish District Attorney for 30 years before becoming a defense attorney.
“The amount of money that the state spends to keep people in jail is significant. The debate is, well, it’s worth it because it keeps us all safe," said career defense attorney Peter Flowers. "Well, I understand that, and I think to some, when it does keep us all safe, that’s a good thing. But what happened is there’s a lot of people being kept in jail that pose no danger to us and the reason for that, in my mind, it’s just easier that way.”
Why is mass incarceration getting worse if light is being shed on police brutality and unethical arrests? Research by Oklahoma City's ABC affiliated channel, KOCO, as well as Southern Poverty Law Center in June 2018 of updated mass incarceration statistics study Oklahoma's increase in inmate retention to recently surpass Louisiana as first in imprisonment rates. However, another state locking more people up is not reason to celebrate. Louisiana has a long way to go in making progress. Louisiana still corruptly spends taxpayer money on incarcerating people for profit via policy regardless of reforms to minimize arrests. Lack of reduction in prisoners despite a decrease in arrests is due to the continued lockup of people who do not need to be in jail just because it is someone's job. Follow the Money of Mass Incarceration from Prison Policy Initiative. Today someone can be arrested in America simply for not being born here. Articles by NPR on Supreme Court Immigration Ruling, February 2018, and ACLU Detained Children Abuse Report, May 2018, show that people trying to get by are being treated like animals in a zoo.
In November 2018 the ACLU reported on sexual assault against immigrants due to a situation at an ICE detention center which claimed it could not be held accountable for sexual violence by its workers to avoid responsibility. “A recent investigation into sexual abuse in immigration detention found that there were 1,448 allegations of sexual abuse filed with ICE between 2012 and March 2018. In 2017 alone, there were 237 allegations of sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities.” Families are at serious risk of violence when they are being detained. Locking people up is a cycle of intense physical and emotional stress.
Cornell University has a fact sheet published on alarming incarceration and mental healthcare information last updated May 2017. “The term ‘criminalization of the mentally ill’ was coined in 1972 to describe the increasing arrest and prosecution rate of individuals with mental disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that between 25% and 40% of all mentally ill Americans will be jailed or incarcerated at some point in their lives. By contrast, about 6.6% of the general population is jailed or incarcerated at some point in their lives.” Discrimination against human conditions extends beyond basic mental health.
Systemic patriarchal oppression of gender roles is being perpetuated through mass incarceration by taking away rights. During May 2018 LGBTQ Nation broke down a Trump issued guidance memo regarding transgender inmates. “Prisoners’ biological sex would be used when screening, housing, and offering programming services to transgender inmates. It also inserts the word ‘necessary’ in guidance on medical care and hormone therapy indicating officials will be allowed to decide whether or not inmates will receive medically appropriate services for gender transition.” As the vulnerability of being trans in jail shows, criminalizing human beings has resulted in a loophole making it legal to forcibly mess with someone’s brain chemistry based off of institutionalized sexism.
This is America: A place where someone could be treated as less than human as a result of conditions beyond their control. A society that rejects or accepts the problems of others solely (yet soullessly) based on how those issues affect themselves. A mentality of pushing definitions on individuals as a means of benefiting from their suppression. A system of blatantly causing harm to others while ignoring the consequences of those actions. Private information that is manipulated to criminalize or mistreat people include race, financial status, immigration status, mental health stability, and gender identities.
Mass incarceration has gradually resulted in more of a police state over time. Headlines paint a picture of how conflicts of interest exacerbate local criminalization. During Feburary 2019 Nola.com covered how Louisiana routinely jails people weeks, months, even years after their release dates. NPR published that Supreme Court broadens the government's power to detain criminal immigrants March 2019. Nola.com reports sheriffs could get more money to house Louisiana prisoners.
Funding is paid for by or on behalf of inmates in the user pay justice system. But the city only gets the payments after they are released. The more people being locked up, and the longer they are there, the more money is made. Government interests in both public and private incarceration are protected by using influence to leverage people's quality of life for profit. When the solution to reductions in mass incarceration rates become to charge more across the board for imprisonment while detaining prisoners for as long as possible, turnover rates become exchanged with retention rates rather actually resolving core issues.
*Help people live their life when you attend an event promoted with a Deaf Child mushroom logo. Not every show promoted by Deaf Child is hosted by Deaf Child, so when the event is someone else's the ticket sales aren't Deaf Child's to donate. Support local underground freelancers when you attend an event promoted with a Deaf Child street sign logo.
Have a heart and free your art!