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Men Freed After MacArthur Justice Center Files Lawsuits Over Illegal Jail Time

More Prisoners Overdue for Release

NEW ORLEANS -- One day after litigation was filed to secure their freedom, prisoners Jessie Crittindon and Eddie Copelin have been released by the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

“This is a great victory for these two men, who should have been home with their families months ago,” said Katie Schwartzmann, co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center office in New Orleans. “However, we believe there are over 100 additional affected individuals who should have been eligible for either release or transfer to DOC custody but have been sitting in the East Carroll Parish jail with no legal classification. The work to identify and process those additional men continues.”

Schwartzmann said the Department of Corrections and the Orleans Parish authorities should end the practice of housing prisoners in East Carroll Parish. “This must not be dismissed as a simple bureaucratic mistake,” Schwartzmann said. “It’s as serious of a constitutional violation as one can think of. And the lack of concern with which our December 28 letter was treated by the East Carroll authorities is a clear indication that this facility is unfit for the continued housing of prisoners.” 

“We are frustrated that legal action was required to free these men, and we are frustrated that so many others are still being impacted,” said MacArthur Justice Center attorney Emily Washington. “This problem would have been avoided if the proper steps had been taken by these agencies once these individuals received their court sentences. At the very least, this should have been fixed when we notified the agencies of the illegal holds weeks ago.”

“To their credit, the Department of Corrections moved quickly once we filed litigation, and Director Maynard has expressed an appreciation for the significance of the situation and the need for correction,” Schwartzmann said. “In stark contrast, the staff at the jail in East Carroll and the East Carroll Parish Sheriff’s Office, have not exhibited a similar sense of urgency. They have continually failed to respond, and have obstructed our access to the facility to interview people.”

“This raises questions about why the East Carroll Parish jail is being used as a detention facility by Orleans Parish and by the Department of Corrections,” Schwartzmann said. “We have seen deeply troubling patterns in the time that Orleans prisoners have been held there. Now it is clear that they cannot even process basic information about whether they have the legal authority to detain the men in their custody. The use of East Carroll by the State and Orleans Parish should end as quickly as possible.”                        

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