OPPRC opposes the decision to expand the jail, a decision which flies in the face of what New Orleans residents have demanded, and what our leaders have publicly committed to doing. For many years, New Orleans residents have voiced a clear and unwavering commitment to reducing the incarceration rate in New Orleans. In just the past two months, an overflowing Town Hall saw every single public comment opposed to jail expansion, and over 100 community members attended a vigil across from the jail, with many New Orleans residents choosing to sleep out overnight to make their outrage clear. In addition, over the course of only one month, over 1,000 people signed a petition in opposition to a jail expansion. Mental health officials, criminal justice specialists, and New Orleans residents clearly and overwhelmingly oppose construction of a new jail building and any increase in the jail population.
Furthermore, the decision to expand the jail is in direct opposition to the public commitments our leaders have made to reduce mass incarceration in New Orleans. The decision comes at the same time that the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge grant, awarded to the City of New Orleans to shrink the size and population of the jail, funds the Sheriff’s Office, City Council, New Orleans Judges, the Police Department, Probation and Parole, the DA, and the Orleans Public Defenders. The City of New Orleans maintains “final authority and approval” over expenditures related to this plan. We call upon Mayor Landrieu and City Council to use their authority to make the right decision: refuse to fund this plan to expand the jail.