News Conference: Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of California Family Alleges Widespread Neglect and Illegal Treatment of Mentally Ill in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison

WHAT: News Conference to Announce Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit in Prisoner Death

WHO: Members of the family, Attorneys, and VOTE

WHERE: Russell B. Long Federal Building, 777 Florida Street, Baton Rouge

WHEN: Wednesday, September 20th at 10:30 a.m.


On the Passing of Our Hero, Sam Dalton

Sam Dalton, a hero to us at the Promise of Justice Initiative, passed away on Tuesday, September 7th, 2017.

Sam was a renowned criminal defense and civil rights attorneys. From creating a model for public defender systems as the founding chairman of the Jefferson Parish Indigent Defender Board (1976-1999) to serving as defense counsel in 300 death penalty cases, Sam’s career has served as an inspiration to us all.  Both his words and actions helped to restore the balance between the powerful and the people and to ensure those with power are reminded of their humility.

Justice and civil rights reform in Louisiana would not be the same without Sam Dalton's incredible work. Our community has lost an incredible man and we hope to continue his legacy. He was a giant upon whose shoulders we all stand today. Last year, our own Ben Cohen was given the Sam Dalton Award, and as Ben Cohen perfectly summarized our feelings on Sam Dalton’s passing:

“The world will miss his fierceness.” 

We are all lucky to have come after Sam. 



PJI Running Team Runs New Orleans Track Club Summer Series

New Orleans has the largest population of incarcerated individuals per-capita of any city in the world. The Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola, houses 6,300 men, and is a particularly brutal example of the failings of our criminal justice system.

PJI repeatedly hears reports from Angola about the inhumane conditions in which inmates live- from extreme temperatures to unconstitutional medical care. 

On July 12th, a group of eight legal interns, attorneys and paralegals represented PJI and ran the loop at Audubon Park to raise money for our Client and Family Assistance Project. The funds raised will be distributed to cover basic needs of these incarcerated individuals. The fundraising also helps support inmate families maintain a connection to their loved ones through visits and phone calls. 


PJI REPORT- Punished Protesters: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison


CONTACT:  G. Ben Cohen: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Andrea Armstrong: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


NEW ORLEANS, LA The Promise of Justice Initiative’s newly released report, Punished Protesters: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prisonpresents a disturbing window in to the conditions of the East Baton Rouge Parish prison and the inhumane, punitive conditions endured by people arrested and detained in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Reports from protesters arrested and detained during the 2016 protests of the killing of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers highlight the inhumanity of the prison, including physical violence, denial of basic sanitation and medical care, and disregard of due process. The investigation made clear, not only that the conditions of confinement at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison are inhumane, but a level of cruel intentionality to the treatment of detained citizens.

The weekend following Mr. Sterling’s killing, thousands of people gathered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to peacefully protest the murder of Mr. Sterling, as well as police brutality, primarily against African American men, across the nation. Somewhere between 180 and 200 civil rights demonstrators were arrested during the protests from July 8-10, 2016 Over 67% of these arrestees were African-American, and nearly 90% of those arrested were charged with obstruction of a highway. Most of the protesters were booked, processed, and held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, sometimes for days.

Erica Navalance, principle author of the report, notes: “[T]he two most disturbing aspects of our investigation were 1) that those detained for minor infractions were forced to endure threats of brutal force and humiliation, 2) that it might actually be worse for those regularly arrested in East Baton Rouge on minor offenses, unable to make bond, when the whole world is not watching.”

Ben Cohen, Of Counsel at The Promise of Justice Initiative, observed that the treatment of protesters in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison in 2016 was “disturbingly similar to the treatment that African-American students endured in the early 1960’s, when civil rights advocates fought segregation in the city. It’s as if nothing has changed but the temperature.”

The Promise of Justice Initiative’s report details the conditions of the prison, the experiences of the arrested protesters, and the governing legal standards for detention of arrestees, based on more than a dozen interviews conducted on July 11th and 12th of 2016 and June 2017, in conjunction with prison policy manuals, local and national statistics, and independent investigations and studies into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.



East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Findings through Health Management Associates

The Mayor of Baton Rouge commissioned a study by an independent consulting firm into the healthcare services provided at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. When Health Management Associates presented their findings in June 2016 after a thorough investigation, the results were shocking; the healthcare department was woefully understaffed, the facilities were wholly inadequate, and the care, when provided, was not meeting national standards. Read more in their complete presentation below.

Download this file (HMA powerpoint (002).pdf)EBR HMA Report