Members of Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) presented Mayor Mitchell Landrieu with a letter today urging him to declare the jail a state of emergency, thus triggering the release of people being held in Orleans Parish Prison who would also be released in the event of a hurricane. The letter was presented to Mayor Landrieu during a city press conference marking the start of hurricane season at the Port of New Orleans. While presenting the Mayor with the letter outlining the need for emergency release, OPPRC members and supporters formed a circle and sang and prayed for the safety and well being of all of those being held in the jail. An altar at the center of the circle remembered all those whose lives have been lost in OPP. There have been 41 deaths at Orleans Parish Prison in the last eight years. Last year, at least 700 assaults and 32 stabbings occurred at OPP. An average of 50 to 60 jail inmates are rushed to the hospital each month.
“Many of the people currently in OPP are charged with minor, non-violent crimes and pose zero risk to public safety- as evidenced by the fact that they would simply be released under hurricane evacuation conditions. Instead, they are held in OPP, on taxpayer’s money, where they are in danger of being beaten, raped, stabbed, or possibly even killed in the jail,” said Yvette Thierry. “We cannot in good conscience hold people subject to this dehumanizing violence. The City is responsible for their safety. The Mayor has the responsibility to stop this bloodshed.”
The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition is a diverse coalition of community organizations and concerned individuals who have been campaigning since 2004 to make OPP a smaller, safer, and more humane jail. In 2011, OPPRC held two community forums with Department of Justice officials in attendance. OPPRC also campaigned against a proposed expansion of OPP using FEMA money and was successful in urging City Council to pass an ordinance in February 2011 in support of a 1438 bed cap on the size of the jail. The ordinance included a requirement that all current buildings must be decommissioned and demolished after completion of the new facility. OPPRC is also working to end the per diem funding at the jail which offers a perverse incentive to incarcerate more people in a city that already incarcerates more people per capita than any other place in the world.
Check out the materials included in the press packet for this event.