Louisiana has the highest incarceration rates in the world.
Read that statement again, the Bayou State puts more people in prison per capita than any other state and more than any other country. You are 5 times more likely to go to prison in Louisiana than you are in Iran and 13 times more likely than in China.
Worse, Louisiana has one of the lowest rates of spending on prisoners. That means if you wind up in a Louisiana jail, you have a higher risk of dying or suffering horrible abuse.
Things have become so bad that if you go to New Orleans today, one in seven African American men are in prison or “on paper” (parole or probation). Unfortunately, the high rate of incarceration hasn’t seemed to reduce the state’s burgeoning crime rate. Despite locking up more people than any other place in the world, Louisiana still has an above average crime rate.
Louisiana Prisons and Jails: Too Many Inmates, Too Little Care
The New Orleans Times Picayune says that jails pay on average just $24.39 per day to house, feed and care for each inmate. With spending that low, the food served is poor, healthcare is virtually nonexistent and guard pay is a joke.
Taxpayers get what they pay for and in Louisiana’s case that means unfit guards, doctors that get paid as little as $5.00 per patient and inmates that have little hope of receiving substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling or learning a new skill that can help them upon release.
All of these factors contribute to the state’s above average recidivism rate.
Recent news focused on former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his boasting about inmates that survived on soy casseroles that cost between 30¢ and 80¢ per day. Many folks also know that the Sheriff Joe was equally proud of his tent city jail.
Things only recently improved in New Orleans when Sheriff Guzman finally decided to tear down the Orleans Parish Prison tent city. With temperatures and humidity in the 90’s and few social programs, inmates were destined to be released from jail angrier and with no skills. It wasn’t a question of if they would be back in jail but when.
Although the tents are down, there is still little hope for Louisiana prisoners.
Louisiana’s jail industry is designed to fail prisoners. And that failure means prisoners will quickly return. With the state’s three strikes law, it doesn’t take long before a young man with a relatively minor criminal history is facing life in prison.
As jail death and jail misconduct lawyers, we can’t fix society’s problems or force Louisiana to reform its jails and prisons. But we can hold them accountable when guards severely abuse prisoners or when uncaring / understaffed / underqualified prison healthcare staff cause inmates to needlessly suffer or die.
Call to Action Bar
Injured or Lost a Loved One in Louisiana’s Prison System? Call Us 866.836.4684
Louisiana Jails - Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The United States Supreme Court ruled in the 1970’s that failure to provide adequate healthcare to inmates amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. That decision only partially addresses the problems of jail deaths and prison abuse, however.
Even with the Constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, many prisoners don’t know they have rights or how to enforce those rights.
Louisiana Jails – A For-Profit Industry
A big part of the problem in Louisiana is that prisons, parish jails and corrections healthcare largely operate as for-profit businesses.
Many rural sheriffs still get part of their money running jail operations or housing inmates from other cities and states. The big for-profit private prison companies have also found the state welcoming to their operations.
When sheriffs and private prison companies have a profit interest in the prison system, both inmates and the public lose. Inmates lose because they don’t receive the healthcare they need, suffer higher abuse rates and have no skills when they are released. (One in three can’t read meaning that finding a job is especially difficult upon release.)
The public loses because without substance abuse treatment, job training or mental health counseling, prisoners are going to find themselves repeating the same bad behaviors that originally landed them in jail.
Crime rates remain high and the state pays for far too many people behind bars. Taxpayers also pay to support the children of incarcerated adults.
List of Louisiana State Prisons
- Allen Correctional Center
- Avoyelles Correctional Center
- David Wade Correctional Center
- Dixon Correctional Institute
- Elayn Hunt Correctional Center
- Forcht – Wade Correctional Center
- J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center
- Louisiana Correctional Institute For Women
- Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola)
- C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center
- B.B. Rayburn Correctional Center
- Winn Correctional Center
The Worst of The Worst Prison “Medieval, Squalid and Horrifying”
Louisiana has the dubious distinction of housing what has been called “the worst prison in America.” The Louisiana State Penitentiary (often called “Angola” or the “Plantation”) has not only been called the worst prison, the American Bar Association labeled it “medieval, squalid and horrifying.”
It is also America’s largest maximum security prison holding 6,300 prisoners.
The Angola prison was originally a cotton plantation operated by slave labor. Things have not changed much today. In fact, prisoners now operate the plantation as a farm and guards still patrol on horseback.
74% of the inmates at Angola are serving life sentences. A 2010 Time Magazine article claims Angola’s guards were among the lowest paid In the United States. Most had not even graduated from high school.
If you think that is a recipe for disaster, some claim the Winn Correctional Center located in Winn Parish, Louisiana is worse. Although owned by the state, the Winn Correctional Center is privately run under a contract with LaSalle Southwest Corrections. Until recently it was run by the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA).
A 2016 expose by Mother Jones detailed poorly trained and paid guards, understaffing, rampant violence and falsified records.
CCA may be out and LaSalle in, but that company was recently investigated by Texas corrections officials for not providing proper medical care to inmates.
Allen Correctional Center until very recently was also privately operated. That facility was operated by the GEO Group. As of September 1st, 2017, the state was taking control of the prison after GEO voluntarily terminated their contract.
Ironically, they claimed they couldn’t compete with the $24.39 a day that several Louisiana sheriffs charge the state to house prisons in their own jails. While the costs of housing prisoners has been steadily increasing across the country, the price paid in Louisiana has dropped in Louisiana from $31.52 to $24.39, a 24% decrease. Unfortunately, the lowered reimbursement rate isn’t a reflection of cost efficiencies.
Instead it simply means that services already cut to the bone have been cut again.
We, the ACLU, and other organizations believe that Louisiana’s prison system has failed prisoners and today can only be described as cruel and unusual punishment.
Holding Jails and Prisons Accountable for Wrongful Death and Abuse
Despite Louisiana’s “get tough on crime” attitude, public opinion is slowly changing. With so many people in prison, people are starting to finally realize just how bad and barbaric things have become in Louisiana’s jails and prisons.
As more and more horror stories find their way into mainstream media, the public is demanding answers.
The biggest roadblock to change today is Louisiana’s sheriffs and private corrections companies. The sheriffs are politically powerful and the corrections companies spend a tremendous amount of money on lobbying.
What will ultimately change things is a few large jury verdicts.
Money is the motivator behind Louisiana’s huge incarceration rates. But money can also be the tool that forces change.
Insurance companies and politicians won’t tolerate poor care and abuse if inmates (or their next of kin) start collecting multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Politicians and taxpayers will begin demanding answers as well.
Unfortunately, few local lawyers are willing to take on the local sheriffs and the billion-dollar private prison industry. We are a national network of jail death and prison misconduct lawyers and we will and do fight corrections abuse and poor prison healthcare wherever we find it.
Until now, inmates who died in prison, women who lost their babies while giving birth in prison and prisoners who suffered permanent, catastrophic injuries because of poor care or abusive corrections officers had no national voice.
We are proud to say that all that has changed.
If a loved one has been killed because of poor healthcare or abuse by prison guards or if you have suffered a catastrophic permanent injury because of poor healthcare in a prison, jail or juvenile detention facility, give us a call. 866.836.4684 or CONNECT ONLINE
Our national network of civil rights lawyers is experienced in prosecuting jail death and prison abuse cases. Whether you are in Louisiana, Texas or any other state, we can help you achieve civil justice and obtain a large cash award for your injuries.
The Time to File Wrongful Death and Other Lawsuits in Louisiana Is Very Short – Act Immediately to Protect Your Rights
Louisiana has some of the shortest time periods in America to file claims for wrongful death or personal injury, just one year.
Worse, special rules for public agencies and officials make filing claims even more difficult. If you or someone you love suffered a catastrophic, permanent injury or died while in custody, call us immediately.
For more information, contact us online or by phone at 866.836.4684 (Please note, we receive dozens of phone calls daily and will not accept collect calls from people not yet clients.)
[The author of this post, noted whistleblower lawyer Brian Mahany, is a former New Orleans deputy sheriff and prosecutor. He welcomes speaking with present or former corrections officers or healthcare staff with information about fraud in private prison or prison healthcare contracts. Whistleblowers with inside information about fraud may be entitled to large cash awards.]
Disclaimer: MahanyLaw has accepted and prosecuted cases in almost 40 states. We use local counsel or co-counsel with lawyers in our network as necessary to obtain the best results for our clients.