#cut50 Partners with PJI on Louisiana's Day of Empathy


On Wednesday March 1, 2017 criminal justice reform groups #cut50, the Promise of Justice Initiative, and Louisianans for Prison Alternatives invited the public and members of the Justice Reinvestment Task Force to come together to discuss the policy recommendations the Task Force will submit to the legislature.


The event was a part of #cut50’s National Day of Empathy campaign aimed at humanizing the lives of people impacted by America’s criminal justice system, including people who have been incarcerated, their families and friends, and crime survivors.

The national day of action was organized by #cut50, a bipartisan initiative founded by Van Jones and Jessica Jackson Sloan working to make our communities safer while decreasing the prison population. In addition to Louisiana, over fifty state and national organizations participated in the Day of Empathy in order to reach hundreds of lawmakers.



Death Penalty is Not Reserved for the Worst Offenders- Determined by Race and Geography

Today, attorneys working on behalf of Marcus Reed filed this Response to the State of Louisiana’s brief at the United States Supreme Court.  Marcus Reed was convicted and sentenced to death in the same parish, by the same prosecutor as Rodricus Crawford and Lamondre Tucker.  The cases were identified in this piece by Maurice Chammah in the Marshall Project, Could One of these Cases Spell the End of the Death Penalty.  In the filing today, Reed’s lawyers argued:

Now is the time; and this is an appropriate case for this Court to consider whether the evolving standards of decency render imposition of capital punishment in a non-terrorism, non-treason case unconstitutional.

Marcus Reed, an African American man from Caddo Parish, was represented at trial by two attorneys who were responsible for more than one quarter of the death sentences in Louisiana between 2009 and 2014. Reed was at his house, late at night, when three teenagers drove up his driveway. It was uncontested at trial that one of those teenagers had burglarized Mr. Reed's house that same day. Reed's defense at trial was that the teenagers inteded to rob him again, or commit another violent felony at his home, that he had told them to stay away, begged them not to come, and shot them in the dark when they arrived. In this case, where Mr. Reed's only defense was that the killings were justified, the Louisiana Supreme Court acknowledged that "defense counsel arguably made a professional error by failing to request instructions under Louisiana's Stand Your Ground Statute."

Reed's case demonstrates that the death penalty in America is not reserved for the worst offenders, but occur as a result of the arbitrary circumstances of race and geography. 


PJI Awarded Competitive Grant from Harrah's New Orleans Casino and New Orleans City Councilmember Jason Williams

PJI's Client and Family Assistance Project has been awarded a competitive grant from New Orleans City Councilmember Jason Williams and Harrah's New Orleans Casino. The grant, established in 2006, works to provide support to local organizations and projects that contribute substantially to the well-being, development, and growth of the New Orleans community. The program is broad-based and provides grants to a diversity of meritorious organizations and projects.

PJI's Client Assistance Coordinator, Mara Abramson, responds to the needs of over 200 men and women in prison in Louisiana. She raises funds and supplies hygiene supplies, glasses, books, food, clothing, and money for medical bills. Mara also coordinates communication and visits for these clients with their families.

With the support of Harrah's and New Orleans City Councilmember Jason Williams, Mara will be able to provide increased support to incarcerated people and their families. Mara's work increases important family connections, strengthening our communities and decreasing hopelessness in prisons in Louisiana.



Calvin Duncan on Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts

Calvin Duncan

PJI's Light of Justice Program Director, Calvin Duncan, presented at the ACLU of Louisiana's critical panel, The Shame of Our State: Non-Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Louisiana, to discuss the impact of non-unanimous jury verdicts in Louisiana.

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. Calvin Duncan has devoted his work to shining a light on this injustice and creating a more equitable system for those who are trapped within this system.

Elayn Hunt Correctional Center's Lifers' Association Banquet

Certificate of Appreciation


PJI's Client and Family Assistance Coordinator, Mara Abramson, was honored at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center's Lifers' Association Annual Banquet. Elayn Hunt's Lifers' Association serves to organize, inspire, support, and empower incarcerated individuals in their efforts to succeed.

Mara spoke at the banquet, talking to incarcerated men about the services PJI's Client and Family Assistance program provides, including family visits, correspondence, basic medical and hygiene care, books, and general advocacy.

Mara also discussed current trends in criminal justice reform and the state of over-incarceration in Louisiana, quoting Governor John Bel Edwards when he said "You will never convince me that the people of Louisiana are innately more sinister or criminal than elsewhere. So what are we doing?"

Mara concluded her presentation by telling the Association members "All of this is to say, I know that sometimes it can feel hopeless. I know that it can just feel like you're going through the motions, trying to make it another day, feeling like there's no one out there who is looking out for you. But I want you to know that there is a huge community out here advocating that you, and people like you, get a real chance to succeed."