Justice Department Shares Results of Investigation Into ‘Systemic Overdetention’ in Louisiana Prisons

If the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections doesn't adequately address these violations in 49 days, a lawsuit may be triggered.

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The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDOC) “routinely confines people in its custody” beyond their legally entitled release dates, the Justice Department said this week when announcing the findings of their investigation.

Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said Wednesday that the agency’s investigation had found evidence of “systematic violations,” with next steps said to be focused on a variety of reform efforts. The most current data, which encompassed cases of “systematic overdetention” between January and April 2022, showed that 544 people had been held more than 30 days beyond their release date.

“The Constitution guarantees that people incarcerated in jails and prisons may not be detained beyond their release dates, and it is the fundamental duty of the State to ensure that all people in its custody are released on time,” Clarke said.

Notably, this is not a new problem. As the DOJ’s letter points out, the LDOC has been aware for 10 years or longer that its widely criticized practices were resulting in unconstitutional detentions. The letter also lays out a series of minimum-required changes designed to put an end to such policies, including extensive tech upgrades and stringent communication among regional agencies.

If the myriad issues outlined here are not adequately addressed by the LDOC within 49 days of receiving the letter, the Attorney General could file a lawsuit citing the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) of 1980.

Complex has reached out to a rep with the LDOC for comment. This story may be updated.

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