The Louisiana Department of Corrections is keeping more than a quarter of inmates behind bars past their scheduled release date, the US Department of Justice said in a report on Wednesday.
According to the Department of Justice, between January and April 2022 alone, almost 27% of those released from LDOC custody – nearly 4,100 people – were detained after their release date.
Of those held beyond their release dates, 24% were held for at least another 90 days.
“Our investigation uncovered evidence of systemic violations by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections that have resulted in the routine confinement of individuals well beyond the dates they are legally entitled to release,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who leads the Justice Department. Civil Rights Division.
The DOJ opened the investigation in 2020, saying the state’s overdetention issues had dragged on for years without action being taken. The report cited a decade of “systemic deficiencies” in the state.
“These violations are largely caused and exacerbated by systemic deficiencies in the LDOC’s policies and procedures relating to the receipt of sentencing documents, the calculation of release dates for incarcerated individuals, and the training of employees,” the official said. department in a letter accompanying the report. .
The Justice Department has said it could sue the state if it doesn’t fix these issues in a few weeks, the letter continues, but prefers to “resolve this case through a more cooperative approach.”
“The Constitution guarantees that persons incarcerated in jails and prisons cannot be detained beyond their release dates, and it is the basic duty of the state to ensure that all persons in its custody are released in time,” Clarke said.
Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the LDOC, said in a statement to CNN that the department is reviewing the report and will “continue to work with the DOJ throughout this process.”
Mercedes Montagnes, executive director of the Promise of Justice Initiative, a New Orleans nonprofit that supports and advocates for the rights of people in the justice system, told CNN that the report’s findings are “stark” and ” frankly worse than we imagined”.
“That’s what the Justice Department is here for,” Montagnes said. “We screamed, we screamed, we cried from the rooftops… for defenders like us, that validates. It’s energizing to know that all the power of the federal government is going to come in here and hold people accountable.
This story has been updated with additional details.