By Aretha Frison, Trumpet Editor
Over 40 people attended Wednesday's night town hall meeting regarding the Orleans Parish Prison expansion, including public officials and community leaders. Many of the attendees were not aware that the jail manages state inmates, how many beds Sheriff Marlin Gusman wants in the jail expansion and how the jail expansion affect their neighborhoods and communities.
"Many people are in this negative experience (jail) because of a lack of jobs and that is a large response to the crime,” said Senator Cynthia Willard-Lewis during the meeting.
Who is in our Jail?
Right now, there are approximately 3,500 people in Orleans Parish Prison right now, which amounts to more than 9 people in jail for every 1,000 residents. The national average is less than 3 people in jail for every 1,000 residents.
"If you look at the data, you will see that black men in the system stay twice as long as white men and that is not being very just, " said Lucas Diaz, executive director of Puentes. Our working group has learned a lot and notice that there is a huge disconnect between the criminal justice activists and the public. We need for the public to talk about these complex issues. And for us to have a just government, we need the public’s input."
Of that 3,500, 800 or almost 25 percent are state prisoners who should be housed in state facilities. And, of the remaining 2,700 city prisoners, 80 percent have been charged with a minor or nonviolent offense.
"We have to keep in mind that the jail is about people and we need to build something that is rightly and morally proper for the people," said State Representative Austin Badon. "And we need to work with our families so they don’t have to be involved in the criminal justice system. I am about making sure that our people are responsible and out of the penal system. If we educate our children using a holistic approach, then we won’t have to worry about expanding our prison system."
You can contact Aretha Frison at firstname.lastname@example.org.