The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) will hold a community forum on Tuesday July 8 at 6:30 pm at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 2903 Jefferson (@ Claiborne). The forum will focus on discussion of the best use for a lot of land at 2900 Perdido. The land is owned by the city, and located between the kitchen and the new 1438-bed jail facility being built by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.
After a brief presentation about the lot, OPPRC has invited over a dozen community groups to share their dreams and visions of how the site could be used in a way that would help make New Orleans a safer, healthier, and more just community. Open mic time will also be included for attendees at the forum to share their own ideas or comment on what has been shared by others.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has long held plans to build a so-called Phase III building on the 2900 Perdido site; these plans for additional inmate beds were documented in recent court filings. This is despite a 2011 City Ordinance advocated for by OPPRC and other community groups that limited the size of the new jail being constructed to 1438 beds and required that the new facility be built to accommodate the needs of all inmates. The Ordinance was passed unanimously by City Council. All City Councilpersons have been invited to attend Tuesday's forum and some have already confirmed their participation.
OPPRC has argued for a cap on prison beds because prisons do not make a community safe but are instead themselves criminogenic, causally linked to violence and crime on New Orleans streets. If there are more beds to fill, the police and Sheriff will fill them and continue the trend of incarcerating and imprisoning mass amounts of people, perpetuating a country-wide epidemic, of which New Orleans is the epicenter. OPPRC argues that instead of building more beds, money that the city saves through reducing the size of the jail should be used for funding employment creation and job training programs, libraries, community centers, mental health and substance abuse services, after school programs, youth and recreation programs, cultural activities and economic development opportunities, etc. all things proven to be more effective in creating safer communities and families. Tuesday's forum will provide an opportunity for the community to dream about these alternatives to more prison beds.
You can RSVP via facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/592985364149635/