FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW ORLEANS, LA The Promise of Justice Initiative’s newly released report, Punished Protesters: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, presents a disturbing window in to the conditions of the East Baton Rouge Parish prison and the inhumane, punitive conditions endured by people arrested and detained in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
Reports from protesters arrested and detained during the 2016 protests of the killing of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers highlight the inhumanity of the prison, including physical violence, denial of basic sanitation and medical care, and disregard of due process. The investigation made clear, not only that the conditions of confinement at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison are inhumane, but a level of cruel intentionality to the treatment of detained citizens.
The weekend following Mr. Sterling’s killing, thousands of people gathered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to peacefully protest the murder of Mr. Sterling, as well as police brutality, primarily against African American men, across the nation. Somewhere between 180 and 200 civil rights demonstrators were arrested during the protests from July 8-10, 2016 Over 67% of these arrestees were African-American, and nearly 90% of those arrested were charged with obstruction of a highway. Most of the protesters were booked, processed, and held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, sometimes for days.
Erica Navalance, principle author of the report, notes: “[T]he two most disturbing aspects of our investigation were 1) that those detained for minor infractions were forced to endure threats of brutal force and humiliation, 2) that it might actually be worse for those regularly arrested in East Baton Rouge on minor offenses, unable to make bond, when the whole world is not watching.”
Ben Cohen, Of Counsel at The Promise of Justice Initiative, observed that the treatment of protesters in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison in 2016 was “disturbingly similar to the treatment that African-American students endured in the early 1960’s, when civil rights advocates fought segregation in the city. It’s as if nothing has changed but the temperature.”
The Promise of Justice Initiative’s report details the conditions of the prison, the experiences of the arrested protesters, and the governing legal standards for detention of arrestees, based on more than a dozen interviews conducted on July 11th and 12th of 2016 and June 2017, in conjunction with prison policy manuals, local and national statistics, and independent investigations and studies into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.