Home> Legal Associations> Criminal Defense Lawyers Associations> NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers> News >"Slavery by Another Name": Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Decries Louisiana’s Prisons, Which Force Individuals to Work at Hard Labor Past Their Release Dates – Washington, DC (Jan. 27, 2023)
NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Jan 27, 2023

"Slavery by Another Name": Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Decries Louisiana’s Prisons, Which Force Individuals to Work at Hard Labor Past Their Release Dates – Washington, DC (Jan. 27, 2023)

Washington, DC (Jan. 27, 2023)– The Justice Department recently released a blistering report on its investigation into the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDOC) and their practice of violating the due process rights of incarcerated individuals sentenced to hard labor by over-detaining them for months beyond their scheduled release dates. The report found that due to policy failures and poor training, LDOC "routinely confines people in its custody past the dates when they are legally entitled to be released from custody, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment." The report also stated LDOC’s failure to ensure the timely release of individuals in their custody has resulted in systemic overincarceration, to which they have been deliberately indifferent.  

NACDL Executive Director Lisa Wayne stated:  

"I have represented clients sentenced to confinement at hard labor in Louisiana’s Angola Prison, the nation’s largest maximum-security prison, which is nicknamed ‘The Farm’ and ‘The Angola Prison Plantation.’ This is because the prison sits on 18,000 acres that were the site of slave plantations, where armed white men on horseback, called ‘freemen,’ still watch over incarcerated workers (more than 2/3 of whom are Black) as they pick cotton by hand — decades after mechanical harvesters have been the norm. They also harvest corn, soybeans, and sugarcane for pennies an hour. A 2022 ACLU report found that incarcerated workers in Louisiana prisons earn between $0.02 and $0.40 an hour. The ACLU report also stated that prison staff call individuals slaves, in addition to treating them as slaves. Profiting from forced labor of people who should be set free really is slavery by another name. Since the vast majority of those sentenced to hard labor in Louisiana are Black, it’s hard not to see Louisiana’s deliberate indifference to this widespread, long-term over-detention practice as an example of systemic racial discrimination as well as unconscionable oppression of all similarly situated people, regardless of their racial identity. 

"The Louisiana Department of Corrections has consistently and willfully violated the constitutional and human rights of an untold number of individuals in their custody by routinely confining people past their release dates. The system of confinement to hard labor in Louisiana is slavery by another name. This is not a new concept: the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. On top of our reliance on over-policing and over-prosecuting, what is happening in Louisiana shows how our system not only allows but maintains the practice of illegally holding incarcerated people in violation of their due process rights. The DOJ rightfully mentions the burden this has on the taxpayer, but what they fail to mention is how these individuals bodies are exploited for free labor, otherwise known as forced servitude, and the burden that casts on individuals and their families. As the United States enters its fiftieth year of the failed policy of mass incarceration, it is time to call out and remedy our addiction to overcriminalization and incarceration." 

NACDL President Elect Michael Heiskell stated: 

"The human toll is outrageous. To hold a single person a single day beyond their sentence is appalling. To do so blatantly, so frequently, so methodically, and for so long with such indifference is another example of how our criminal legal system is broken, unjust, and inhumane. We arrest, prosecute, and punish individuals because they fail to follow rules. Countless prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officers, and community members call for strict enforcement of probation, parole, and pretrial release rules so that missing a single meeting, being late to a class, or being late in payment on a fine or court fee can send you to jail or prison. Every day we listen to judges, prosecutors, and legislators talk about the fact that a person has been ordered to do something, and they cannot pick and choose what parts of the order they follow and what parts they do not. If our elected officials want to call for accountability of those who may be less educated, less resourced, and less able to understand and abide by a series of rules and orders, then it would seem they should be at the head of the line in calling for swift, immediate, and lasting remedies by those who are perpetrating and perpetuating what is occurring in Louisiana." 

This article was syndicated from the NACDL website and originally appeared on:

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NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Founded in 1958, NACDL is the largest organization for criminal defense lawyers fighting to preserve fairness within America's criminal justice system. The organization has more than 10,000 direct members including criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders in state or federal court, U.S. military defense counsel, law professors and judges.