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Loyola Law Professor's Newly-Released Report Documents Deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison

Loyola press release - August 15, 2018

Report “Dying in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison” will be released at noon on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 on the levee in Baton Rouge (by the intersection of Florida Street and River Road). The authors of the report will summarize findings and answers questions from the media and the public.

Through their work with the Promise of Justice Initiative, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Professor Andrea Armstrong and attorney Shanita Farris have co-authored and released today a report that analyzes the deaths of twenty-five (25) in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (EBRPP).

Deaths in local jails are rare in most places, except for Louisiana and especially in EBRPP, the authors said. However, this report, “Dying in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison,” uncovers the failure of parish prison officials to ensure safe jail conditions, provide adequate health care and prevent the use of excessive force on detainees, resulting in an abnormally high mortality rate in the jail. The report also details the lack of accountability for the prison officials and how the suffering of families who have lost their sons, fathers, and brothers continues to be ignored. Often, after years of investigation and litigation, families are still denied compensation and accountability.

"These deaths here in East Baton Rouge do not exist in a vacuum, but rather are also a consequence of Louisiana’s broken criminal justice system. Minorities, the poor, and the mentally ill are more likely to be exposed to the harms of the jail," the authors said.

The report urges key reforms, including greater transparency, to stop future occurrences of these preventable deaths.

Co-author of the report and attorney at the Promise of Justice Initiative, Shanita Farris, commented: “Our criminal justice system is broken here in Louisiana, and one of the damaging effects of a dysfunctional system is the preventable deaths of community members.”

This report is the second report published by the Promise of Justice Initiative about the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. The authors' first report, Punished Protestors: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, was published in July 2017, the one-year anniversary of the protests following the killing of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers. Its contents presented a window into the disturbing conditions of the prison and the overly harsh, punitive treatment endured by people arrested and detained there following the protests.

This new 2018 report, through interviews with family members and review of court records, media, and EBRPP documentation obtained through public records requests, confirms the experiences of the detained protesters and demonstrates that the conditions in EBRPP are deadly.

“This report is meant to shed light on some troubling trends we have observed at the EBRPP and we hope it will be a jumping off point for conversations around how the community can work to improve the conditions there,” says Promise of Justice Initiative Executive Director Mercedes Montagnes.

All 25 deaths in EBRPP since 2012 were men. Twenty-two of the 25 (88%) men had not been convicted at the time of their deaths. The deaths in the jail occurred as early as two days after admission to the jail to thirty-one months after arrest. Fifteen of the 25 men who died in EBRPP were Black, eight were White, and two were Latino. In East Baton Rouge, two of the deaths were suicides. Illness-related conditions were the leading cause of deaths in the jail. Some of these men had pre-existing medical conditions but were not given medication. Others were denied medical and mental health treatment.

City and jail officials were formally made aware of the inadequate medical and mental health care in EBRPP at least as early as August 2015, but have failed to implement significant changes. The 25 deaths at EBRPP 2012-2016 are atypical, compared to 80% of jails across the country.

“This report highlights the tragedies that have come as a result of the facility’s violent and abusive treatment of the individuals housed there and the failure to provide access to adequate healthcare and other necessities.” said Reverend Alexis Anderson, a leader of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition (EBRPPRC). The EBRPPRC is made up of community members and activists advocating for change at the parish prison.

The EBRPPRC will be having an open meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 22, in the Main Library at Goodwood in Baton Rouge, 7711 Goodwood Blvd.

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