PJI REPORT- Punished Protesters: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison


CONTACT:  G. Ben Cohen: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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NEW ORLEANS, LA The Promise of Justice Initiative’s newly released report, Punished Protesters: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prisonpresents 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.



East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Findings through Health Management Associates

The Mayor of Baton Rouge commissioned a study by an independent consulting firm into the healthcare services provided at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. When Health Management Associates presented their findings in June 2016 after a thorough investigation, the results were shocking; the healthcare department was woefully understaffed, the facilities were wholly inadequate, and the care, when provided, was not meeting national standards. Read more in their complete presentation below.

Download this file (HMA powerpoint (002).pdf)EBR HMA Report

The Advocate: Death Penalty Deters Crime? Facts and Most Criminologists Beg to Differ

Michael L. Radelet and The Promise of Justice Initiative's Ben Cohen weigh in on the failure of using the death penalty as a deterrent in The Advocate

The article sums up how capital punishment has failed in Louisiana according to 95% of criminologists. 

"Not only is Louisiana’s death penalty expensive, it is particularly error-prone. As Frank Baumgartner and others have noted, some 82 percent of Louisiana death sentences imposed since 1976 have been reversed. And with last month’s exoneration of Rodricus Crawford, 11 individuals sentenced to death in Louisiana have been released from prison without any charges whatsoever. By any measure, Louisiana taxpayers are getting scammed."

Read the article here


Update: PJI Seeks to Challenge Louisiana's Non-Unanimous Jury Rule as Unconstitutional

Louisiana is only one of two states to allow felony convictions by only a portion of a jury. This unjust practice stemmed from post-Reconstruction racism and is a leading cause for wrongful convictions. 

PJI's petition asks the court to determine whether the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee that the truth of every accusation against a defendant should be confirmed by the unanimous suffrage of twelve of his equals and neighbors.

Read the petition attached below. 

PJI Staff Runs the Crescent City Classic

Congrats to PJI staff members who ran the Crescent City Classic this weekend to support PJI's Client and Family Assistance Project and raised $1,588.00. The project connects families with loved ones who are incarcerated, strengthening Louisiana communities.  

Donations can still be made in honor of the runners by clicking the picture below or donating directly to PJI here