“Crime Session” Recap: Week One

Week One wrapped this Friday and we have thoughts

This Governor and Legislature is reminiscent of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and their legislature in the days after October 7. There is a complete disregard for history and circumstances that precipitated the situation, and comprehensive problem solving has been replaced with blind rage and a violent counterattack. This session is about crime “reaction,” and nothing about crime “prevention.” 

Consider the bills, actions, and statements in totality: 

New Orleans will be occupied by a second layer of state police whose arrests will be handled by the state Attorney General. A message to law enforcement that they will have immunity from prosecution or lawsuits regarding brutality and rights violations (HB 2, SB 6). A State of Emergency was declared to allocate additional funding to hire more police and alleviate any restrictions on hiring them too quickly or without proper training. Meanwhile, a deployment of the National Guard to Texas indicates how quickly the Governor is to expend our resources on ideological pursuits.  

Police saturation is not based on any data correlation with safety and crime. Louisiana has more law enforcement per capita than anywhere in the world, including a police station inside the French Quarter (next to the Louisiana Supreme Court) and a second police station bordering the Quarter. Crime rates, which is the percentage likelihood that someone will fall victim of a crime, do not account for New Orleans commuters and visitors; thus, all of those “high” rates (based on number of residents) are false. Millions of visitors come and go without being scared, but that is not likely to be true if New Orleans begins to resemble the Palestinian West Bank. 

Thursday night Rep. Jason Hughes gave an impassioned speech pushing back on the characterization of New Orleans as a “wild west” place to fear, and questioned the details around the State Police “Troop” to be stationed in New Orleans. 

The expansion of Drug Court testing (HB 3) was a promising bill, however the hearing suggests this is simply a method of transferring millions of Opioid Litigation Settlement funds into the hands of sheriffs who will drug test everyone who gets booked into the jail. There is no talk of expanding Drug Court or expanding treatment, both of which are already at capacity, and there are no quality controls in place with sheriffs in Louisiana. Thus, it will be a handout, and testing will be relatively meaningless.  

Opioid Settlement monies came from corporations that were intentionally pushing drugs onto their distributors, licensed doctors, all of whom understood the addiction qualities were more harmful than advertised. Rather than rounding people up to go to prison for such widespread predatory behavior, they paid their way out of accountability using a portion of their billions in drug dealing profits, including profits from fentanyl. These funds were allocated to states, some of whom had attorney generals who were more aggressive with the drug dealers than others (Louisiana’s Jeff Landry was not) and are supposed to be spent on rehabilitative efforts. Louisiana will put it in the hands of police and sheriffs.  

A 25-year mandatory minimum for people convicted of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl that appears to be attractive to minors (HB 8) comes on the heels of a 2023 legislative crusade against fentanyl through this same method. Not a single doctor or addiction specialist appeared in the room, and no data to support the false claim that death sentences for drug dealers has an impact on our family members who get high, and potentially overdose and die was presented. The war on crack and heroin went down similar paths and failed. Not only is this law peculiar, as it presumes someone is out there with animal crackers or an ice cream truck all laced with fentanyl, it simply sucks up all the oxygen in a building that should be a center of collective problem solving. Most drug users also sell drugs to keep their habit afloat, and barbaric prisons are not the health care we need to fight addiction. Most of the legislators have likely never heard of naltrexone or buprenophine, FDA-approved opioid antagonists, medications that are proven to help people overcome or manage their addictions. 

Teenagers are in the sights of this law enforcement approach. On the one hand, our political establishment explains how they want to stop drug dealers from distributing to young people (through the lens of kids as victims) but meanwhile they will target those young people who are seeking intoxication based on their own feelings of discontent, anxiety, depression, experimentation or hopelessness. Rather than build out supportive services for 17-year olds over the course of a 5-year phase in to the juvenile system, Louisiana did nothing with “Raise the Age” until they realized the juvenile system was bursting at the seams.  

Although 17 year olds account for less than 1% of all crimes, they are over 25% of the juvenile crimes (14 – 17). Courts, counselors, jails and prisons can’t handle the added workload. So after a few years of crying “Juvenile Crime is Up!” (it actually merely added 25% more crimes by adding 17 year olds), they have given up on the project, and sending kids back to adult court for every last misdemeanor and petty felony so they can have a permanent criminal record to go along with a more severe physical and psychological punishment (SB 3). Again, this is Crime Reaction, not Crime Prevention. 

The “Transparency” bill (HB 1) is to make those permanent records easier for the general public to look up any time, including arrest records. This would also apply to every violent crime for 14 – 16 year olds. No data, nor even a hypothesis, on how this helps crime except for those of us who note that criminal records discrimination drives people towards crime, not away from it. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor put out a report showing that 90% of the people receiving housing support after release are successful with reentry, making it the most powerful anti-crime provision of any tangible metric. In 2023, however (and likely again in 20224) this Legislature also will not pass a bill that reduces criminal records discrimination in rental housing. In fact, all the bill requires is for landlords to post their standards of discrimination so that applicants need not waste their time and money. And this is for people who actually have funds to rent an apartment. This will undoubtedly INCREASE CRIME. 

The Legislative Auditor also showed Louisiana Workforce Commission data that the median income of people who were successful in reentry was a meager $15k, while those who returned to prison was $3k. The data is likely more a sample than it is comprehensive, considering this study population is highly transitional; however, it does suggest the number of legitimate jobs people are able to secure in their situation. The bottom side of the median is likely close to $0, as they were not able to secure a job at all. This Crime Session is not concerned with this data point either. 

The Governor and others bemoan “criminals rights,” as though there are any rights other than the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Whether someone is sworn to defend the U.S. and Louisiana Constitutions or not, there will be no confidence if this Governor is appointing the Chief Public Defender (SB 8). This person could easily water-down representation, hire less than vigorous public defenders, and have no funding for investigation and expert witnesses.  

What happens upon arrest and after the mandatory drug test? Some will be on probation or parole. Louisiana is set to increase probation sentences from 3 years to 5 years (HB 11) and allow people to be violated for as little as an arrest. Currently, someone needs to be convicted of a new allegation, and a low-level misdemeanor is not enough for a full revocation. With 5 years over someone’s head, and freshly arrested, the pressure to plead guilty (and take a few years sentence) will be immense. Especially when someone has no faith in the system, including their own attorney. The standard of violating probation is much less than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This would be similar to the lopsided pressure system that the Non-Unanimous Jury provided. Under this new system, step one will be getting young people to take a 5 year probation sentence so they can get out of jail and go home, and then later on a petty offense or false allegation will turn into 5 year prison sentences. This form of system has been panned by the American Bar Association, and someone should be found guilty through Due Process to be revoked.  

Once sentenced, people will be doing at least 85% of their sentence (versus a potential range down to 35%), as the HB 10 will toss aside the bulk of Good Time credits. Good Time is supported by every prison administration in America, as it is the primary “carrot” to incentivize good behavior. It keeps people safe. It is also very easy to lose Good Time credits, so the tiny 15% allowable will get eaten into with every discipline infraction. The bill does not stop people from earning up to 1-year in program credits, however, there is next to no programs in many parts of the Louisiana gulag that spans 8 state prisons and over 100 local facilities. Jails and prisons will be bulging. Guards and deputies will be in demand, yet this Legislature has never been serious about providing the low-level captors with salaries, benefits, and protections. Some places hire the same position two or three times per year, and these front line jobs are critical to maintaining a gulag of excess labor that have been replaced by exported jobs, robots, self checkout, and other automation. The Governor just eliminated the Job Creation requirement of massive tax break for companies that spend money on capital improvements. 

HB 10 is similar to the “Dangerous Offender” bill (HB 14) which applies to a subset of convicted people: those with any prior violent crime or a drug distribution conviction. The 85% provision is not mandatory, but similar to the Habitual Offender laws, it is a tool to pursue and pressure plea deals upwards. It is basically a 2-strike bill, setting a new precedent in giving up on people. Considering how many people addicted to drugs also distribute drugs, we know this is who will be most commonly impacted. 

People who are innocent, or guilty of a lesser crime, often have bad appointed counsel, or evidence was withheld, or did not get investigated and brought to light. Direct appeal is not where someone can raise these issues, so they need to wait until the post-conviction petition some years down the road. HB 4 is about limiting the ability to have a case heard. Currently, if a judge or district attorney sees that a case should be heard and given a hearing, they can simply ignore the various procedural barriers that often come up when people (usually pro se) are filing multiple times but never getting a hearing. They often call these “successive” or “repetitive” petitions, despite a person never getting a hearing on the evidence they want heard.  

Among the many people whose tortured legal sagas ended in innocence was our friend John Thompson, who was on Death Row for 14 years. Despite appeal after appeal, and trying to reveal the intentional suppression of evidence proving his innocence, nobody was ultimately held liable. Under the new laws, his post-conviction petitions might have been stopped in their tracks. Also, under HB 5 he, Glenn Ford (also exonerated from Death Row) and the 90 people currently sentenced to Death would face nitrogen gas or the revived electric chair. Both have been proven to be horrific and painful deaths, which may be exactly the point. Definitely will be subject to U.S. Supreme Court review. And under HB 5, the entire process will be in secret- including whether the suffocating gas was made by a proper chemical manufacturer, or in the equivalent of a meth lab rural Louisiana. If Louisiana is giong to conduct Public Executions, let them be public, and let those who would actually kill in all our names, seeking to prove that killing is wrong, stand and be counted. 

Data Reality Check: Louisiana’s Criminal Legal System & the Legislature’s Proposed Reforms

As shared on our X account, @FIPVOTENOLA in 24 tweets, here are key data points that counter the recurring “soft on crime” narrative and highlight the consequences of proposed legislation.

HB 1: Over 55,000 charges were dismissed, among people with public defenders in 2023. Under HB1, these arrests are publicized and freely scraped off the internet.

SB 8: Indigent defense currently gets 32% of its revenue from “Conviction and User” fees, creating a conflict of interest for lawyers getting paid when a client is found guilty, rather than innocent. Under SB 8, Gov. Landry will appoint the state Public Defender.

JRI: The 2017 Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) impacted only non-violent offenses, and in the years since, people in prison have declined for all categories. Keep in mind that JRI programs did not begin until savings were converted into program and impact a few years later.

With reduction in people incarcerated, fewer people were sent into local jails (where over half of state prisoners serve). This resulted in significant lost revenue for sheriffs, which JRI stood to replace by funding local programs to help lower-level (and nonviolent) convictions

Despite added funding, jails do not offer nearly as many programs as state prison. JRI has had massive impact to increase that, but “savings” (JRI dollars) are expiring without reductions to incarceration. All progress is soon to be abandoned without a fiscal allocation.

None of the #CrimeSession bills provide any programming, nor fund prevention, rehabilitation, or reentry. However, the incarceration costs will soar at least $60 – $100m annually under the Governor’s package of bills. None of which acknowledges the Angola medical litigation.

Some legislators, rather than accept facts on recidivism going down (comparing apples to apples over time) would like to redefine the word “recidivism” while failing to provide their oranges to oranges data over time.

It is unclear which actual data visualization in reports by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the DOC, or Pelican Institute that people are not looking at, but the facts are facts.

Naturally, data sets can have imperfections (and we are all for better data), but that imperfection applies across the past 20 years. It can also be easy focus in on the less than 1% of cases that capture the public’s fury, as roughly 75% of crimes do not have a victim.

Keep in mind that the impact of reforms are typically a person being released a few months earlier than they would have. Someone serving 3 years on a nonviolent drug possession would be out on parole roughly 6 months earlier. Their success hinges on the supports, not the 6 months.

The clear #1 successful program is housing with an 89% success rate, even when over half of participants having a violent conviction. The Legislature can allocate funds here, and support Rep. Matt Willard’s bill to decrease discrimination for prospective tenants who are able to pay.

While programming has trended up under JRI, there is still hardly enough programs, practically zero substance abuse programming, and people serving the longer sentences will always be pushed back on waiting lists as others are closer to release.

With the majority of people held in local jails, JRI hasn’t had enough time to develop programming throughout the system. This begs for Equal Protection litigation for those held in jails, as fewer programs = less rehabilitation, longer terms, and worse results.

The primary programs under attack in the Governor’s push to “Stop Justice Reinvestment” will be the Reentry Programs, funded by JRI and run by sheriffs. It is unclear in this fast session if those programs will continue at all.

One reason for less recidivism is more supportive programs after release, even if only impacted a small portion of people. It should be no surprise that places such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge have lower recidivism rates because there is a broader and deeper network.

Despite seeing successes, the Crime Session does not invest in the things that decrease crime: Housing, jobs, mental health counseling, community health workers, opioid medication, substance use counseling, education, trauma care, restorative mediations, family reunifications…

Of the relatively few people able to learn a trade in prison, nearly a quarter were able to find a job in that industry. 80% of them did not return to prison.

The cost of incarceration is $37k per year, which is 9x the median wages of people who returned to prison, and nearly 3x the wages of people able to assimilate into the community. With robots, self-checkout, AI and jobs being exported, Louisiana is using prisons for excess labor.

Meanwhile, JRI youth programs show stellar success. However, the Louisiana legislature appears determined to halt any progress.

There are no glaring statistics about any specific age group. And with small numbers, a few successes or failures can seem like a major difference.

HB1: Despite juvenile crime going down, and 17 year olds being temporarily considered juveniles, the Crime Session will have impact kids who do not commit the most serious crimes, by publishing all arrests for violent crimes, and making petty offenses of 17 year olds “adult” crime.

It should concern everyone that the Crime Session is absent of actual data and lacks testimonies from the Legislative Auditor, DOC, judges, sheriffs, and other data analyst groups.

And even more concerning when the Violent Crime Task Force put out false narratives about people serving 15% of their time, on average; or people serving an average of 6 years on violent crimes [despite roughly 25% of people in Louisiana serving a sentence of Death in Prison].

Over 26% of Louisiana’s prison population (over half who are in sheriff’s jails) currently have over 10 years Time Served in prison. 10% of them have over 20 years in. Long sentences have increased, while short sentences decrease.

A Breakdown of All the Proposed LA “Crime Session” Bills

By Deputy Director Bruce Reilly

The Louisiana Legislature’s special “Crime Session” begins on Monday, February 19th, with committee hearings expected to happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. With the rules being suspended, a bill can pass out of committee in the morning and be heard on the Floor that afternoon. The next day it is likely in committee in the opposite chamber, with the process repeating. 

Twenty-four bills were filed in five committees, with half of them in the House Administration of Criminal Justice. See them all in VOTE’s 2024 Bill Tracker here

Below is a summary of the bills, organized by category, the largest being “Extending Sentences.” 

Transparency

HB 1 requires court clerks to report all their docket entries to a public portal, including hearing dates, counsel of record, charges, bond set, sentences, continuances, and names of judges. This applies to all adult courts and juvenile cases in violent crimes and/or someone facing a second felony. Posting a juvenile’s pretrial information (while still holding the presumption of innocence) may violate a child’s right to privacy, and that will likely incite numerous lawsuits. This will be a very costly portal to create and maintain, all so people can easily look-up an arrest record of every Louisianan. HUD, and the FTC (who oversees background check databases under the Fair Credit Reporting Act) have on multiple occasions explained that arrests are not to be used as indicators of guilt, so it will be interesting to see how the state law “immunity” clause (for the Clerks of Court) plays out in federal court when someone sues a housing provider or employer for discrimination. 

Law Enforcement 

HB 2 and SB 6 limit law enforcement liability to actions that are criminal, fraudulent, or intentional misconduct. Considering nobody ever won a liability case against a police officer without proving one of those things, these bills are performative, with no real impact. Any officer accused of misconduct will still require a hearing to decide if it is “intentional.” SB 6 also bars any liability if the complainant is convicted of a crime. Thus, as long as there is a conviction, a police officer can violate someone’s rights in any number of ways. It is unclear how this intersects with criminal misconduct, or if a petty conviction will bury any and all abuses. Most people will file such a claim in federal court, where such a waiver will carry no weight. 

Drug Court 

HB 3: Mandatory drug testing and screening for specialty courts (by licensed professionals) is well intentioned. The actual impact on addiction recovery is far from clear. First, someone’s intoxication level within 24 hours of arrest is not a clear indication of their substance use, nor even if they were intoxicated while allegedly committing a crime. Drug Courts typically sentence people to an intensive outpatient regimen, and drug testing, over an 8-year probation term. Recovery and relapse are intertwined, thus the level of punishment (or support) someone receives if they slip up is the difference between Drug Court as a successful therapeutic model or simply as a gateway to prison. Having data on the preexisting Drug Court cases, including firsthand testimony, would help clarify the likely outcomes of expansion. Realistically, Louisiana can turn about a third of all judgeships into “drug court” if they truly want to handle the intersection between the desperation of drug use and crime. To tackle it correctly, however, we need an army of health care providers, treatment facilities, and medication assisted treatment. If the threat of prison alone kept us sober, we would be the straightest population on the planet. 

Wrongful Convictions 

HB 4 forces district attorneys and judges to object when a person files a post-conviction appeal that is after the filing deadline, if it had been heard before, or if over a year has passed since uncovering newly discovered evidence. This takes the discretion from judges and prosecutors who would only be allowing the case to be heard if they had serious doubts about the legitimacy of the conviction. It is a peculiar bill considering how often legislators say, “they trust their district attorney.” 

Extending Sentences 

HB 9 is the big one, as it eliminates parole eligibility on all crimes happening after 8/1/24, except for juvenile Lifers. The price tag on this will be enormous, including the medical costs, especially if it is determined that it overrides medical furloughs and release. 

SB 5 impacts all the parole-eligible people currently in prison and requires a board to be a unanimous vote for release. One member of the board could single-handedly block every release. The bill also requires someone to go 3 years without a serious discipline infraction, rather than the current 2 years. The parole board only releases about 2% of the 15,000 people who get out every year, each of them typically showcasing impeccable behavior and an impressive institutional resume. For people with extreme sentences, it is typically the only way they can be released. The bill also makes someone wait an additional 4 years after denial to be reconsidered. The final paragraph of the bill, although slightly vague, suggests the Board will have the power to rescind any parole decision at any time in the future “for any reason deemed appropriate by the committee.” This may run afoul of the Supreme Court’s principles in Morrissey v. Brewer, and how Due Process (not the whims of a king) govern such a liberty interest. 

HB 5 adds a 61st crime to the list of “violent crimes” (R.S. 14(2)(b), which are then ineligible for things such as Good Time or parole and become enhancers for Habitual Offender multipliers. The law defines “illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities” as an illegal or negligent discharge of a firearm (or use of an article or substance) where it is foreseeable that it may result in death or great bodily harm. Another example of how many ways someone can be charged for the same action. 

HB 7 essentially doubles the sentences for carjacking, with mandatory minimums of 5 years where no serious injury and 20 years with serious injury. It raises the maximums to 20 and 30 years respectively. 

HB 8 creates a 25-year mandatory minimum for a “detectable amount” of fentanyl whenever it is added to something that is “attractive to minors.” This vague phrase includes things that are in the shape of animals, vehicles, or candy. It is difficult to imagine this law holding up in court, if it is used, considering that basic adult vitamins, for example, look like candy. More to the point, however, this is another example of how we are punishing our community members who have an addiction problem rather than providing opioid antagonists and residential treatment. A 30-year-old parent who gets hooked on fentanyl won’t be eligible for release until they are 55 in this scenario. 

HB 10 mandates that sentences after 8/1/24 will earn a maximum of 15% Good Time credits. This means that, if they do not get any write-ups, they will serve 85% before being released on Good Time Parole Supervision (GTPS). With the elimination of discretionary parole eligibility under HB 9, this will be the only path to release short of 100% of a sentence. People sentenced to 40 years or more will likely die in prison. This bill also ends Good Time credits for people on parole. If they are violated, they will serve the full-term in prison, with no credit for time on the street. This may result in people turning down GTPS release altogether. 

HB 11 increases the maximum probation term from 3 years to 5 (except Drug Court, which can be 8). Based on data and research, this term was reduced because by year 4, people had generally either succeeded or failed. The extra years were simply unnecessary labor for probation officers, and subjected people to petty infractions and fees rather than being able to move on. The bill also increases the penalties for technical violations: up to 90 days in jail. It also reduces what is a “technical” violation, including how an “attempted misdemeanor” would be subject to a full revocation instead. Its unclear what would be good examples of such an act. 

HB 13 pushes for anyone convicted of a violent crime while in prison to lose all their Good Time. This bill seems redundant, particularly if someone is earning just a small amount under HB 10. Good Time credits can already be deducted by a disciplinary action without needing the trouble of a trial and conviction for assaulting someone. 

HB 14 “Dangerous Offender” bill is redundant to HB 10, which would require everyone to serve at least 85% before GTPS release. Under this bill, a judge can deem someone a “dangerous offender” if they have one prior conviction for violence, sex, or drug distribution. This would require them to serve 85% of their time. 

Children 

SB 3 reverses the “Raise the Age” law which puts 17-year-old kids in the juvenile system. The law took five years to phase in, but Louisiana did nothing to expand the juvenile system to absorb those court cases and kids in custody. With extra space in adult jails and prisons, Louisiana prefers to return to the old ways. This change complicates things for wardens who must keep the 17-year-olds separate from the actual adults and coincides with Louisiana building more juvenile prisons. Thus, there will be even more space for 14-16 year olds across the state in a system with 300% turnover in their staff and a newly appointed head of the Office of Juvenile Justice who was notoriously involved in sexual abuse scandal with the kids. 

SB 4 will make it more difficult for kids to get a second chance through the courts. Any child seeking a sentence modification must serve at least 3 years in prison (or 2/3 the sentence if shorter than 3 years). This will prevent judges from recognizing positive rehabilitative changes amongst children who are deep in their developmental stage. 

Death Penalty 

HB 5 creates absolute secrecy over who executes the people on Death Row and where they get the lethal substances. It also adds nitrogen hypoxia as an approved method of killing someone. Realistically, it should be the Governor who executes a person, as they alone have the power to not kill someone. 

Indigent Defense 

SB 8 moves public defenders from the independent “Board” into an executive state office. The Governor would appoint a head of the office who has 20 years’ experience as a barred attorney, with 7 years in criminal defense. This would be more experience required than the Attorney General and Louisiana judges, and it isn’t clear how the 7 years in defense would be calculated. The extreme requirement is likely intentional. The Chief Defender would hire an executive staff, and then contract with local head public defenders who (apparently) are nominated by a selection committee of one lawyer and two registered voters. It remains to be seen (if passed) who would be providing the constitutionally guaranteed right to effective defense counsel, and how flush (or starved) their budgets. It is likely that lawsuits are filed based on conflicts of interest and falling short of the 6th Amendment rights. For a chief executive who appoints the heads of the State Police and the Department of Corrections, a former Attorney General who successfully advocated for the State Police and A.G. to have criminal divisions in New Orleans (for starters): this has a massive appearance of impropriety. 

Guns 

HB 12 and SB 1 make it so any 18-year-old can hide a gun under their jacket, even if they have a documented mental illness or substance use issue. The only people prevented would be those with a felony record. It will certainly cause distress for gas station employees, Lyft drivers, and others who may rightfully question the intention of someone packing heat. How police officers, security guards, and business owners react will range from strict “No guns allowed” signs to shooting anyone considered armed and dangerous. It is difficult to imagine there being less shootings in Louisiana under such a law. 

SB 2 takes away liability for conceal carry owners unless there is gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or a criminal act. This would put the onus on courts and juries to define gross negligence if an unlocked gun is stolen and used criminally.  

Other 

HB 15 is a reasonable amendment to the law. The 6-year time limit to charge someone for 3rd Degree Rape does not begin until after the crime is discovered by the victim. 

SB 7 increases the usage of ignition interlock devices for DWI punishments. The sentence for .08 (the standard for “drunk driving”) from 90 days to 180. Realistically, DWI laws are among the few criminal laws that take a reasonable approach to balancing freedom, the right to work, and accountability for a dangerous situation. If only all parts of the criminal code were addressed as such. 

Governor Landry has increased two parts of the state budget: prisons and the state police. He also recently issued a state of emergency that allows sheriffs to hire more people and receive more pay. The public concern about the incoming administration is well placed, as he continues to fight all regulations on clean air, clean water, and land pollution. It also appears public education and health care, already abysmal in Louisiana, are further on the chopping block. In a state so committed to force women to have babies, one might wonder what vision they have for such children. 

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated. Join us at the Capitol Tuesday, February 20th for our VOTE Crime Session Advocacy Day.

VOTE Responds to LA Violent Crime Task Force Report

Dear Members of the Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF), 

Thank you for posting the Draft Report under HR 168. After thoroughly reviewing the report and examining the data in the public folder, please find the comments from Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) below, addressing specific sections of the Draft Report: 

Addressing Violent Crime 

The purpose of the HR 168 task force is “to study and evaluate recent legislative reforms to the Louisiana criminal justice system and the effects of such reforms on public safety and crime in Louisiana,” and make legislative recommendations for “criminal justice reform that reduces crime and recidivism in Louisiana while improving public safety and strengthening our communities.” However, the task force falls short by focusing on only a few reforms, neglecting hundreds of others, and potentially misinterpreting data. This narrow focus, combined with the conflation of data sets, leads to questionable and dangerous conclusions about the relationship between sentencing reforms and new crime. 

Importantly, the VCTF crunches two data sets together, incarceration and crime, and implies a causality that has not been proven. The task force erroneously correlates the rise in crime with an increase in parole, implying causality without evidence. First, you would need to show that there are more people on parole (there are not) and second you would need to show that these people on parole are at the heart of a spike (you have not). In fact, members of the VCTF have claimed that there are not enough parole violations. 

There are two types of reasons someone on parole can be returned to jail or prison, for a “New Crime” or for a “Technical Violation.” The first one will get their parole revoked along with an additional new sentence. The second, a technical violation, is when there is no new crime, but they violated the terms of their parole- often related to living conditions, jobs, travel, or a failed drug screen. Technical violations do not drive up crime rates. Sometimes such people will have parole revoked and sometimes they will get “sanctions” of several days in jail. 

The VCTF also fails to distinguish between “all crime” and “violent crime.” It is well established that people who have four or more felony convictions are nearly always those people who struggle with mental health and/or addiction. Often, such people will have no victim in their cases other than themselves, and potentially low-level property offenses. It appears that the VCTF’s goal is to lock away the problem and not seek to address it. It would be negligent and backwards if Louisiana’s best solution to mental health and addiction issues is incarceration in the form of psych prisons and addiction prisons. 

The VCTF possesses more data than a “hunch,” as to the relationship between sentencing reforms and new crime. There have been no changes in the law that prevent a prosecutor from charging someone with a violent crime, regardless of whether they were 12 years old or convicted five times before. 

The task force suggests punitive measures without addressing root causes, such as mental health, addiction, poverty and lack of tools for conflict resolution. Instead of proposing solutions, it leans towards incarcerating individuals without considering alternative interventions. The need for programs that mediate disputes, provide outlets for children’s anger, and offer support to struggling families is crucial. 

To tackle violent crime effectively, the legislature should focus on addressing the underlying factors that contribute to criminal behavior. This involves creating decent job opportunities, affordable living conditions, and accessible mental health resources. The desperation of poverty creates a confined list of poor choices. When someone’s parent(s) are incarcerated, or struggling with poverty, mental health, or addiction: those children get a daily education in a harsh world. There is a reason that most of the violence is perpetrated by young people whose minds are not fully developed, and who have a limited view of the possibilities. They act impulsively and are often put in dilemmas far beyond their years to navigate. 

If the legislature is serious about preventing violent crime, it is critical Louisiana political leadership call upon people with firsthand experience in violence and its consequences. Impacted people are not just credible messengers to reach young people acting out of hopelessness and anger, Louisiana needs their insights as to how we can address the critical factors that can save lives. Humans are not robots to program or dogs to whip into submission. We are complex emotional creatures, and we will all sink or swim together. 

Addressing specific parts of the Draft Report: 

  1. Has violent crime gone up, or has the Legislature simply labeled more crimes as “violent?” 

First, it should be noted that crime is down from last year, across Louisiana and across the nation. For example, New Orleans has seen such dramatic decreases in violent crime between 2022 and 2023:     

  • Homicides decreased by 27% 
  • Carjackings dropped by 43% 
  • Armed robberies were down by 35% 
  • Nonfatal shootings decreased by 23% 

All of these improvements occurred while the New Orleans Police Department has been experiencing an unprecedented staffing shortage. This suggests there is less connection between law enforcement and violence as some would believe. And although some equate the crime spike coincided with the COVID-19 epidemic to “less policing” or “delayed trials,” the more thoughtful connection is regarding employment, housing stability, recreational activities, school closures, and more. 

Statistically speaking, violent crime data will inherently change if we redefine “violent crime.” Many citizens would likely be surprised to learn that Louisiana classifies 60 offenses as “violent crime.”  These offenses include high profile and extreme scenarios like murder, rape, and robbery, but also lesser offenses such as 2nd degree battery, violating a protective order, and possession of a firearm (in certain circumstances). Re-classifying crimes into the “violent” category of R.S. 14.2 does not make crime go up or down but does create apples-to-oranges comparisons over time. If there were 40 crimes, for example, in 2004, then a twenty-year comparison would be adding 20 new offenses to the data set. 

According to the 2022 JRI Report: 

  • The largest increase in Types of Crimes is “Possession of Firearm by Felon” – from 1,028 (2016) to 2,009 (2021).  Because this is categorized as a “violent crime” under Louisiana R.S. 14.2(57), it creates a significant uptick in “violent crime” whether a person was harmed by the firearm or not. As a staunch 2nd Amendment rights state, it is unclear what impact that culture has on gun ownership. 
  • By contrast, the next largest (and one of few) increases by crime type was Possession of Schedule II Drug, from 926 to 1,427, respectively. Roughly half the increase of the possession of a firearm. 
  • 1700 people were sentenced to probation for “violent crimes.” This indicates prosecutors and judges agreed that the offense, although classified as “violent,” was not so egregious as to warrant imprisonment (although surely many served multiple months in pretrial detention before their probation sentence). 
  1. Several Draft Report claims do not seem supported by the data 

The report reads: 

  1. “Length of time served by an inmate is actually less than 15% of their actual sentences.”  

According to the DPSC Table 1.f “Time Served,” and Table 1.e “Sentence Length,” we get a snapshot of incarcerated people, but not the percentage of their overall sentence served upon release. If the VCTF can point to a specific data point revealing this 15% number, please do. 

Among those incarcerated: 

  • 60.4% served 0-5 years  
  • 14.1% are 6-10 years 
  • 25% served over 10 years 

This leads us to another peculiar statement in the Report: 

  1. “Moreover, the data shows that less than 5% of Louisiana’s prison population is serving more than thirty years.”  

How is this remotely true, when the data clearly shows 11.3%?  [See Table 1e]  

  • 6.6% are serving 0-2 years 
  • 7% serving 3-4 years 
  • 29.7% 5-10 years 
  • 19.8% 11-20 years 
  • 25.3% 21-30 years 
  • 7.7% 31-50 
  • 3.6% 51+ 

The statement is especially misleading when an additional 25% are sentenced between 21-30 years. Thus, well over a third are sentenced to longer than a generation.  

Continuing the odd choice of data: 

  1. “[T]he average time served by a violent offender is less than six years.” 

This should be changed to, “among those released on a violent crime, they served an average of 64.3 months on a sentence averaging 122.9 months (about 10 years).” The sentence may need an * as the data in the 2022 JRI Report (p. 46, Table 15) may be omitting Life Sentences and discretionary parole altogether. This is nowhere near the 15% figure noted above. 

Additionally, only 17% of people released from prison are for violent offenses.  

The average time served before discretionary parole on violent offenses is 261.3 months, or nearly 22 years. This is only a few dozen people. Perhaps the VCTF can calculate the time served prior to death within the data. 

III. Recidivism data matters- and Report claims need support 

A. “55% recidivism for Habitual Offender class after 5 years.” 

This statement deserves context. 

As the table below [compiled from various data tables DPSC provides] indicates, all recidivism has gone down over the past decade, with some sub-populations dropping more than others. While 4th offenses is at 55%, 3rd offenses are only at 24%. It is also unclear by the DPSC data how many people fit this most extreme data point. And as noted above, people in this class are typically saddled with an addiction or mental health situation that requires treatment to overcome. 

People who have served over 7 years in prison have less than 3% recidivism, with those who spent over a decade at less than 1%.  Considering the average release time on a violent offense is over 5 years, there is certainly a significant overlap here. This erodes the notion that “violent recidivism” is a driver of incarceration growth or spikes in crime. 

People released after violent offenses have lower recidivism (37%) than those released on nonviolent offenses (40%), on a consistent basis over the years.  

The recidivism rooted in education completion has had the most drastic impact (from 44% down to 29%), likely attributable to both the quality of education available and the expansion of opportunities over the years (such as licensing reform and Ban the Box policies), including policy reforms attributable to a bipartisan Louisiana Legislature. 

The parole board has 22% recidivism amongst a tiny sample, while the massive number of people completing Probation or Parole (20,188) have just 12% recidivism. 

The gap between getting out of jail vs. prison is growing, with people having more success leaving the latter. This likely stems from the programming, education, and recreational activities in prison. 

Population Subset  2012 Releases 5th yr Returns 2017 Releases 5th Year Returns 
Total Releases (baseline) 14,487 43.6% 14,460 40.3% 
GoodTime Parole (auto) 11,808 45.1% 12,620 41.5% 
NonViolent Offenses 11,943 44.4% 11.833 40.9% 
Education completion 1,345 44.7% 974 29% 
Released Local Jail 8,441 46.2% 9,566 43.3% 
Released State prison 3,080 43.4% 2,197 35.3% 
Completed P&P 19,017 15% 20,188 12.9% 
Work Release 2742 37.7% 2,849 36.4% 
Parole Board 825 38.5% 288 22.2% 
Violent offenses 2,551 40% 2,627 37.6% 
Under 1 yr served    51.6% 
1-3 yrs    32.4% 
3-7 yrs    11.7% 
7-10 yrs    2.7% 
Over 10 yrs    Under 1% 
Jefferson P.    31.7% 
Orleans P.    33.7% 
EBR    36% 
Caddo    45.7% 
Livingston    46.2% 
1st Offense    4.7% 
2nd Offense    16.1% 
3rd Offense    24% 
4th Offense   55.2% 

Livingston (20.8%) and Ouachita (22.8%) Parishes have nearly double the Statewide 1st year recidivism (13.8%), which is 5% in Orleans and 8.8% in Jefferson, suggesting that access to resources plays a major role in stability. Among the DPSC listed parishes: Bossier, Lafourche, Ouachita, Rapides, Terrebonne, Caddo, and Livingston all have over 41% recidivism after 5 years. 

According to the Draft Report:  

B. “LDAA shared that 55% of 1,948 people who benefitted from early release under JRI were arrested”  

Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) data set was not provided, or not posted to the Task Force folders. 

Arrests are not convictions, nor are they P&P violations (although they could be), as people carry the presumption of innocence. It is troubling that government lawyers would provide such data when they could easily provide conviction or revocation data instead, as DPSC has done. 

2017 release data (above) shows 14,460 people; meaning that 12,512 people were released without the benefit of JRI. Thus, 86% of the people released did not get the benefits of JRI reforms. And those who got the “benefits” mostly were released a matter of weeks or months earlier than otherwise. There is ZERO spike in 2017 recidivism data, and this is part of a consistent trend over the previous decade. 

Similarly, where is the LDAA data that indicates:  

C. “1/3 of those [1,948 JRI impacted] released had been arrested for violent crimes and sex offenses.”  

Is the point of this to mean they were originally in prison for violent or sex crimes, and JRI reforms allowed them to be released weeks or months sooner? Or is VCTF/LDAA stating that over 600 of this specific cohort has been re-arrested for one of the 60 violent crimes or a sex offense? It is unclear, but again: arrests are a poor form of data when believing in the legal system that relies on either a guilty plea or a trial conviction. This data is not in the folder. 

  1. “JRI reforms, which made it much more difficult to revoke an offender’s probation of parole sentence for violations of their supervision, led to an approximately 50% reduction in probation revocations between 2016 and 2020.” 

What specifically made it “more difficult?”  

Fewer revocations may also mean fewer violations of supervision. Would the Task Force be satisfied if revocations were trending upward, thereby implying supervision does not work? 

According to the 2022 JRI Report: Probation revocations for New Criminal Activity have steadily declined from 1,133 (2016) to 836 (2021). Other revocations have similarly declined (GTPS, Parole, Technical Violations). (p.12 Fig. 4) 

The average sentence length for new felony admissions (for those on supervision) is 64.5 months (about 5 and a half years). This implies that many must be sentences under 5 years, including many nonviolent crimes. 

The shortest stint are technical probation violations (no new crime committed)- averaging 49.3 months in 2021. Thus, a technical probation violation and a new felony admission are (on average) only 15 months apart. GTPS revocations are 85.4 (2016) and 58.5 months (20, respectively, in 2021. (Fig. 12) 

Habitual Offender sentences decreased, but the length stayed relatively stable. In 2016, 466 sentences averaged 124.8 months. A decline in usage at first saw a spike in sentencing, then 2021 dropped to 89 sentences averaging 119.4 months. 

Juvenile Crime 

Regarding juvenile violent crime, it is impossible to assess any changes without breaking out crimes committed by age group. From 2016 to 2023, the number of juveniles adjudicated of a violent offense increased from 1,408 to 2,199. Were those seven hundred 17-year-olds? 

Did 17-year-olds commit MORE crimes after being moved into the juvenile system? The same? Fewer? Of course, all the numbers went up. First, Louisiana moved the most criminally active of all age groups under 18 into the juvenile system. Second, Louisiana made no changes in the number of judges, lawyers, and carceral facilities despite years of phasing in the “Raise the Age” legislation. 

Conclusion 

Based on the data provided, the past decade has seen a reduction in both crime and punishment. We should not legislate based on salacious stories and extreme examples. We must work to create more opportunities for people to become better people and then accept them back into our community when that happens. It is the only way to reverse cycles of trauma, poverty, and violence. 

Sincerely,  

Bruce Reilly 

Deputy Director 

Voice of the Experienced 

Advocating for True Representation and Mental Health Justice: VOTE Opposes the Disastrous “Phase III” Expansion of OJC

Who represents the civil rights of the people incarcerated in New Orleans’ jail? They don’t know. Do you? 

Voice of the Experienced surveyed people incarcerated at OJC about the consent decree and their experiences with mental health care in the jail.

“Who are these people? OJC is understaffed and run terribly. Why would you need another jail?” 

– Community Member incarcerated 5 years at OJC, in response to our inquiry on the civil rights lawyers representing them

“No one residing at OJC has been informed of the civil rights case before 7/11/2023, when these surveys were issued. The mental health staff to resident ratio is way too large. The staff is not equipped to deal with the amount or level of mental health issues of residents. Medication services are sporadic and not on a reliable schedule.”

Community Member incarcerated 16 months at OJC, diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Expecting to leave OJC “within a year or two.” 

AUGUST 1, 2023—In the ongoing saga of the proposed $110 million dollar Orleans Justice Center (OJC) expansion, a critical question remains unanswered: who truly represents the people incarcerated in our jail?  

We, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), raise strong concerns about the representation of the community most impacted – the people currently incarcerated and who could be incarcerated at OJC – by the MacArthur Justice Center (MacArthur). The 2012 federal court Consent Decree was intended to bring meaningful change to the abhorrent jail conditions in New Orleans and meet standards mandated by the United States and Louisiana constitutions. But instead, it has devolved into a labyrinth of murky intentions and questionable judgment that we believe would make mental healthcare at the jail worse

More than a decade into the litigation, at least 100,000 people have been in that jail, held for periods ranging from a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months. We are totally surprised that MacArthur supports a $110 million panopticon jail expansion to house a few dozen people with serious mental illnesses (SMI).  It is understandable for others to put weight in their opinions, as MacArthur is tasked with representing the incarcerated people inside the jail. We have heard Judge Africk, Magistrate North, and City Council give credence to what the jail’s incarcerated people want (which is rarely the case for people in jails and prisons). We hope such deference continues after reading this letter.  

Our concerns have reached the point that we feel the necessity to raise them in a public forum. The fate of our jail and its population should not be directed through private court deliberations limited to pleadings by a few lawyers, but in public dialogue. This is for the people of New Orleans. 

Historical trends in Orleans Parish pretrial jail population. Source: Vera Institute of Justice
Screenshot captured 08-01-2023, 11:44 am. Source: Criminal Justice Committee Jail Dashboard

A Brief History of the Orleans Parish Prison / Orleans Justice Center Consent Decree

“I’m unsure of what that means.”

– Community Member at OJC, when asked about the “Consent Decree.”

The Consent Decree is an agreement, overseen by a federal judge, of a 2012 class-action lawsuit brought forth by a group of 10 incarcerated whistleblower plaintiffs in Orleans Parish who had the courage to speak out on the dangerous conditions and lack of mental healthcare treatment in the jail. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) originally represented these individuals.  Within a year and a half, when the original lead attorney switched organizations, MacArthur replaced SPLC’s representation of them. 

At the time this litigation was initiated, the jail regularly detained roughly 3,600 people. Conditions in the jail were so egregious that the federal government moved to join the plaintiffs to sue Sheriff Gusman, following an independent investigation conducted by the Department of Justice. By the end of the year, these three parties entered into a federal court Consent Decree, agreeing to work together to make the jail conditions in New Orleans constitutionally compliant (which is still a very low standard of existence). 

Importantly, the Consent Decree acknowledges that the “Plaintiff” class now represented by MacArthur consists of “all individuals who are now or will be imprisoned” in the Orleans Parish Jail.  This court document starkly contrasts with MacArthur’s regular claim that they solely represent the individuals currently in the jail.  

Continue reading Advocating for True Representation and Mental Health Justice: VOTE Opposes the Disastrous “Phase III” Expansion of OJC

VOTE Statement on NOLA Coalition and Police Surveillance

Since the New Orleans City Council put their early focus on crime and public safety, our position has been the need to invest in our kids and the agencies best positioned to support and empower those kids. We gave nearly an hour of testimony to that point, and recently signed a letter drafted by VERA and submitted to Mayor Cantrell. VERA, and many of those signatories, are organizations we know and work with, and have been aligned for years.

The NOLA Coalition is a new idea created by people we do not know. We voiced our support for $15 million to “strengthen social services to support our youth.” It appears they took our name, along with many others, and applied it to a two-part plan we had no role in forming, and never saw until it after it was released. A staple of that plan is increasing the surveillance state in New Orleans. Although NOLA Coalition’s website refers to ”collective input,” we were neither asked for it, nor gave it. But we will give it now.

The NOLA Coalition is a new idea created by people we do not know.

Cameras don’t stop people from the desperation, incitement, poverty, and trauma that causes crime. Tapping our phones is a gross overreach of our civil liberties. Gunshot “detection” is a fraudulent technology that leads to illegal stops and searches that take us deeper into a police state. ”Predictive policing” only reinforces the racially profiled policing used to collect data; for example, if nobody is arresting people on Tulane and Loyola campuses for drugs or sexual assault, then no computer model will ”predict” drug use or sexual assault on the campus of Tulane or Loyola… thus no deployment of police. And in case people forgot, the highest crime rates New Orleans has known was during the ”Tough on Crime” era of hyper-policing and brutal sentences after non-unanimous jury trials.

We encourage people to stay in dialogue, to watch “Katrina Babies,” and to engage the issue of public safety that does not rely on stacking our children up like firewood, closing the door, and walking away. Bridge City quit on rehabilitation for our youth. Many of our schools seem to have quit on kids who struggle as well. Any City Council member, Mayor, District Attorney, or Judges who quit on our kids of New Orleans should quit their job. It is difficult, but this is the work.

Rest In Power, Albert Woodfox (1947-2022)

The entire VOTE family is extremely saddened by the recent home going of Albert Woodfox. His power, insight, and inspiration has provided Movement energy far beyond one solitary prison cell for decades. “Fox” was a Brother to us all, and a leader within the penitentiary since before his global identity with the ”Angola 3.” We will carry his message of human rights forward, fighting to end oppression and injustice, and attempt to replicate his steadfast determination.   

It is a mark of shame that our society would put a man in solitary confinement for 43 years, lacking in health care, exercise, and human contact. It takes a toll on one’s physical, mental, and spiritual self. For Albert to fight back against that torture, and stay incredibly active after his release, is a testament to our human potential.  

For the past six years, Albert was with us every step of the way, even as he shared himself worldwide. Anyone who has read his book ”Solitary,” nominated for the National Book Award, has certainly gained a better understanding of America, and our deepest selves. Our comrade, friend, and fallen soldier would want us to band together more than ever to bring an end to the oppressive penal system that has so thoroughly decimated our families and communities. 

Rest In Power. 

What problem is being solved by incarcerating kids at Angola?

Jaxon Sumter, 8, holds a sign during a protest outside the Bridge City Center for Youth in Bridge City, La., Thursday, July 21, 2022. Governor John Bel Edwards announced a plan to relocate the Bridge City youth to Angola State Prison. Organizations came together to hold vigil for the youth inside the Bridge City Center for Youth and show they are fighting for their future. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to transfer some children from Bridge City to Angola fails to address actual problems at the Office of Juvenile Justice, which cannot adequately hire and retain staff, lacks programming, and apparently cannot keep the prison doors locked (strange that Bridge City suddenly became so escapable). OJJ has more staff (roughly 700) than incarcerated youth (roughly 500), 300% turnover in some positions, and a $160 million budget. Adding a new prison in Monroe, five hours away, is likely as ineffective as sending kids three hours away to Angola. All it will solve is the NIMBYism in Jefferson Parish.

But if they are going to be in Angola, let us embrace the wisdom of the adults in the penitentiary. This includes roughly 25 mentors in the Court Reentry Program, along with veterans in their program, and many others who improve not only themselves but the community around them. By moving kids onto “The Farm,” where incarcerated people provide food service, maintenance, and nearly every task it takes to run this small city, these kids could receive some of the most impactful rehabilitative programming available.

It is a myth that incarcerated men and women lack value. Our organization is just a small sample of what we can do; it makes little sense to bring “free” kids into prisons for a Scared Straight program while locking others away from an opportunity. In lieu of no programs by OJJ, let us create one.

To be clear, we oppose incarceration as the chosen tool of accountability, and we very much oppose exiling kids far from home. Until we make the systemic changes to create holistic accountability, rehabilitation and assimilation, we should be putting the wisdom of our elders together with the children who need it most.

—Norris Henderson, Executive Director

This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

Trials, Tribulations, and More Jails?

WHAT’S NEW IN LOUISIANA’S CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM?

Jail versus Prison

First off, let’s get something out of the way. Jails and prisons are not the same things. A jail is defined as a place for people who are awaiting trial or held for minor crimes. Prison is defined as a place where people who have already been convicted of a serious crime are being held. We aren’t coming up with our own definitions, this is straight out of a Merriam-Webster dictionary. It doesn’t get more definitive than that. Although they function as two different things, people often use them interchangeably, which is a serious problem. 

Is East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Actually a Prison? No.

Words mean things.

Some people may be surprised to learn that the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is not actually a prison. It’s a pre-trial facility, meaning the people being held there have not yet been convicted of anything. So why do they call it a prison when it’s actually a jail? The fix to this problem is quite simple. The Baton Rouge Metro Council has the power to change the name.

Calling it a prison when it is in fact a jail not only harms those being held there but also tarnishes the way people on the outside view what happens within the facility. Last year a study conducted by Professor Andrea Armstrong from the College of Law at Loyola University revealed that the EBR Parish [Jail] had more deaths than any other parish in the state. Since 2012 there have been 57 deaths within the pre-trial facility.

“To me, this is not a problem, this is a pattern. And we need to attack it now. When we have 1, 2, 3 people who are overdosing in our facility that is supposed to be pre-trial, we have a real problem.”

—Amelia Herrera, VOTE Organizer.

Read more here.

Continue reading Trials, Tribulations, and More Jails?

SCOTUS is Waging a War on Our Rights

WHAT’S NEW IN THE CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM?

SCOTUS: Louisiana Congressional Map

Last week, the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) reinstated Louisiana’s racist map, drawn by Republican legislators earlier this year. 

“District Court Judge Shelly Dick, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled earlier this month that the map likely violated the VRA. Under the map lines, one of the state’s six districts is majority Black, even though approximately one-third of the state’s population is Black. Republicans have a 5-1 advantage in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, with Democratic Rep. Troy Carter representing the one majority-Black seat. Dick had ordered the Louisiana legislature to redraw the map with a second heavily Black district.

The Supreme Court’s stay of that order likely resolves the last redistricting challenge outstanding ahead of the midterms, locking in 50 states’ worth of congressional lines with a little over four months to go until the November election.” – Politico

Read more here.

SCOTUS: Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez

If you thought these Supreme Court Justices were going to stop at abortion rights, you are sadly mistaken. This decision led by Justice Clarence Thomas didn’t get much news coverage, but it will affect millions of Americans who encounter the criminal legal system. 

Continue reading SCOTUS is Waging a War on Our Rights