Louisiana sheriff laments release of ‘good prisoners’ who can pick up trash, wash cars
A Louisiana sheriff is being accused of evoking slavery and racist attitudes, after he complained that the state’s new sentencing and parole laws will hurt correctional facilities that save money by putting prisoners to work.
The laws, which take effect Nov. 1, will enable judges to suspend and shorten prison sentences for many first-time violent criminals and multiple-felony offenders, among other measures, the Times-Picayune reported.
Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator expressed concern last week over the release of prisoners who are at risk of re-offending – but it was his take on so-called “good” prisoners which raised eyebrows.
“In addition to the bad [prisoners]… they are releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that where we save money,” Prator said in a press conference filmed by KTBS 3 News.
“[They’re the ones] that you can have pick up trash or work the police programs. But guess what, those are the ones that they are releasing.”
Prator’s comments began to garner widespread attention after they were shared by prominent civil rights activist Shaun King.
The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement that the comments “harken back to Louisiana’s history of convict leasing,” pointing out the state’s mid-19th century practice of leasing convicts to farm and plantation owners for a profit.
“Jails are not supposed to incarcerate people just because they need work done – that is slavery,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU.
“The criminal justice reforms enacted this year were a historic step forward, but there is clearly more work to do to root out the vestiges of slavery and racial injustice that infect our society and communities.”
Prator’s office retorted by suggesting that his words had been blown out of proportion.
“It is a fact that state inmates serving a hard labour sentence can be required to work as part of their court-ordered sentence in Louisiana,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement provided to the Times-Picayune.
“The term ‘good’ inmates was in reference to state prisoners who are eligible to work but have lesser felony charges compared to others facing release who have criminal histories including murder, domestic violence, and battery.”
An earlier statement from Prator’s office estimated that the new laws would lead to the release of at least 63 inmates from the Caddo Correctional Center in Shreveport, La.
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