Criminal Justice

More than a quarter of Louisiana prisoners have been held past their release dates since 2012, DOJ says

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There is reasonable cause to think that Louisiana is violating the constitutional rights of imprisoned people by keeping them in custody past their release dates, the U.S. Department of Justice has concluded.

The DOJ notified Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards of its findings in a Jan. 25 letter, according to a DOJ press release, the New York Times, Reuters and ABC News.

Since 2012, more than a quarter of the people in Louisiana’s custody have been held past their release dates each year, the department said in a report. Between the months of January and April 2022, nearly 27% of prisoners were held past their release dates—31% of them were held over for at least 60 days, and 24% were held over for at least 90 days.

“At that rate, this unconstitutional practice costs Louisiana over $2.5 million a year,” the report said.

Louisiana has been on notice of the problem for more than 10 years but failed to correct it, the DOJ said.

The DOJ said the problem was caused by “systemic deficiencies” in procedures by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The deficiencies relate to the receipt of sentencing documents, the calculation of release dates and employee training.

The DOJ conducted the investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. The DOJ told Edwards that it hoped to resolve the matter through “a more cooperative approach,” but it had the option of filing a lawsuit to correct the alleged deficiencies.

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