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Louisiana must decarcerate

May 3, 2017

by Curtis Ray Davis II

In 2007, this reporter wrote an article entitled, “Louisiana: Back to business as usual?” wherein I described the Jena 6 movement in the following terms:

A crowd of 600 turned out for the Decarcerate Louisiana rally on April 20, far more than the 250 the organizers expected. Youth were well represented.

“Last month the nation seemed shocked to find out that Jim Crow has sired a son, Jim Crow Jr.; down here, we like to call him “Jimbo” or sometimes “lil Jimmy.” The Civil Rights Movement may have silenced Jim Sr., but Lil Jimmy, with his bachelor degree and political clout, can legislate discriminatory policy that constitutes “legal lynching” on a scale that dear ol’ dad and his cross burning buddies could only dream about.”

Not much has changed since 2007. Louisiana remains the lead incarcerator on the planet Earth and, even in post-Obama America, the legal system is being used as a weapon against Black people with arbitrary strokes of pens that take away lives as sure as a genocide or legal holocaust.

What has changed is the attitude of the people of Louisiana, who, on April 20, 2017, took over the steps of the Baton Rouge capitol and demanded that their lawmakers reallocate resources that have traditionally been squandered in the criminal justice system and put them back into education and hospitals.

Not much has changed since 2007. Louisiana remains the lead incarcerator on the planet Earth and the legal system is being used as a weapon against Black people with arbitrary strokes of pens that take away lives as sure as a genocide or legal holocaust.

Louisianans for Prison Alternatives is a coalition of over 16 organizations working together to make sure that this regular session of the Louisiana Legislature marks the beginning of the end for Louisiana’s dubious distinction as the world’s highest incarcerator. John Burkhart, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says that his organization will remain in Baton Rouge until the session ends on June 8 to make sure that the legislators do what they are recommended to do by the Governor’s Task Force slated with the job of figuring a way out of this quagmire.

What has changed is the attitude of the people of Louisiana, who, on April 20, 2017, took over the steps of the Baton Rouge capitol and demanded that their lawmakers reallocate resources that have traditionally been squandered in the criminal justice system and put them back into education and hospitals.

Never in the history of Louisiana has the public made such an outcry in regard to penal reform. Organizational leaders fanned out through the capitol talking to surprised senators and state reps who seem very unfamiliar with the voice of the ordinary people whom they are supposed to be representing. When confronted by one activist, who asked a senator, “Why do you support death by incarceration?” he responded that he had never heard of such a thing.

A life sentence in Louisiana is known by the locals as “death by incarceration.” It is sinister and diabolical because even though it is only a quasi-death penalty, under law there is no viable release mechanism for a person sentenced this way for any crime of violence.

When confronted by one activist, who asked a senator, “Why do you support death by incarceration?” he responded that he had never heard of such a thing.

Louisiana has per capita the highest incarceration rate in the world. This statistic includes comparisons to South Africa, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt. And, with 87 percent of these people being Black, the United Nations Human Rights Council should be investigating Louisiana’s legal system as a rather ingenious form of ethnic cleansing. Louisiana must decarcerate – or accept the fact that this is modern legal apartheid.

Curtis Ray Davis served 26 years of a natural life sentence in Louisiana State Prison for a second degree murder for which he was wrongfully convicted. He is currently working as a penal reform activist and is the host of the Curtis Davis Show, www.amistadradiogroup.com, on Saturdays at 1 p.m. Central Time. Email him at mindfield416@gmail.com. To book Curtis for speaking engagements, call 318-828-0377. And like The Curtis Davis Show on Facebook.

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