PJI Trial against Angola Medical Care: Lewis v. Cain

Louisiana prisons have the highest death rate of any state. People incarcerated at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola suffer from permanent injury and death as a result of the prison officials' chronic failure to provide adequate medical care. 

This brutal treatment hampers incarcerated individuals' reentering into society, prevents rehabilitation, and is cruel and dangerous. 

PJI, along with our partners at the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU Louisiana, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, and Jeffrey Dubner, are asking the court to order prison officials to stop endangering people's lives and start fulfilling their obligation to provide adequate medical care and disability accommodations to prisoners at Angola. 

Follow media coverage of the case here: 

Associated Press: "Trial Starts over Grossly Deficient Prison Medical Care"

The Advocate: "Angola Prison's 'Abysmal' Medical Care on Trial in Baton Rouge Federal Court"

Daily Comet: "Lawsuit Alleging Grossly Deficient Medical Care at Angola Prison Heads to Trial"

Legal Reader: "Louisiana State Penitentiary Lawsuit Heads to Trial Tuesday"

Houma Today: "Angola Lawsuit Contains Troubling Allegations"


Unanimous Jury Conversation Takes Center Stage

From Washington Post, John Legend (Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)


The public sphere is humming with conversation about Louisiana's white supremacist non-unanimous jury law. This Washington Post piece, by John Legend, discusses the injustices that non-unanimous juries bring to all citizens of Louisiana. Legend asserts that non-unanimous juries create a "system in which felony trials are held without the full participation of African Americans."

PJI is proud to be a member of the Unanimous Jury Coalition- a group of dedicated community members, organizations, and victims of the non-unanimous jury system. 

Non-Unanimous Juries in the News: 

The Advocate - Grace Notes: John Legend's Right; Unanimous Jury Change Belongs in Criminal Justice Reform Conversation

The Times Picayune - Convincing the Whole Jury is the Least Prosecutors Could Do

Washington Post, John Legend: It's Time for Louisiana to Strip White Supremacy from its Constitution



Community Reacts to PJI's Report "Dying in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison"

On Wednesday, August 15th, PJI released a new investigative report into the jail conditions at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (EBRPP) as part of our ongoing investigation #exposeBRjail. 

PJI's investigation began after Baton Rouge protests over Alton Sterling's murder. PJI's investigative team learned about the horrific conditions of the jail from first person-accounts of protesters who were arrested en masse and placed in the jail. Our first report Punished Protesters in Baton Rouge led PJI to uncovering numerous unexplained and preventable deaths at the prison. The report connected family members and victims of the dangerous jail. The Baton Rouge community has formed the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition to explore solutions and reform measures to address the deplorable and deadly conditions of the jail. 

Read our latest report Dying at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Check out more media coverage of PJI's most recent report: 

The Advocate: Report: Inmate Deaths in East Baton Rouge Higher than National Average; Jail fails to Provide Adequate Protection.


The Times-Picayune: 25 Dead in 4 years: 'Abysmal Conditions' prove Fatal in Baton Rouge Jail, Report Says.


Channel 9 WAFB: Study Slams East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Safety. Promise of Justice Initiative Released Report on Deaths in EBR Parish Prison.


The Appeal: Most Recent Deaths at East Baton Rouge Jail Could have been Avoided.

Report "Dying in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison" Released by PJI Today


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

BATON ROUGE (August 15, 2018) – The Promise of Justice Initiative has released 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. 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 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. Their 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 death. 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 on August 22nd, at 6:30 PM in the Main Library at Goodwood in Baton Rouge (7711 Goodwood Blvd).   



Corey Williams Walks Free


For Immediate Release:
     Ben Cohen 
     The Promise of Justice Initiative 
     (504) 529-5955

NEW ORLEANS (May 22, 2018) – Louisiana failed Corey when he was two years old with lead levels ten times what were safe, knowing he was being poisoned every day and doing nothing. Louisiana failed Corey when he was eleven, scared and alone; he went for mental health care, and was sent home. Louisiana failed Corey when he was sent to Tallulah as a young teenager, to be beaten by guards and unprotected from violence. And Louisiana failed Corey when he was arrested and charged with a first degree murder that he did not commit. When the police officers and prosecutors who were sworn to protect him decided that it was easier to pin a murder on him then ensure that justice prevail. And Louisiana seared those failures into our collective soul, when — in a toxic combination of hubris and indifference — overzealous prosecutors sent Corey to death row. He was the youngest person sentenced to death at the time of his conviction.

District Attorney Stewart did a remarkable (because it was unusual) and decent thing in recognizing that a person of Corey’s special vulnerabilities, having served 20 years at Louisiana State Penitentiary should be allowed to go home. It was an act of decency in a justice system that can often be inhumane and indifferent.

We believe that there were serious, valid, legal claims warranting a new trial. Claims that over 40 former prosecutors, along with the MacArthur Justice Center in Washington D.C., Innocence Project of New Orleans, Fair Punishment Project and many others, thought were worthy of the Supreme Court review.  But if the cost of Corey coming home today was admitting to manslaughter based upon 16 year old Corey’s possession of a stolen weapon and obstruction of justice for falsely confessing, is weighed against years of court battles, then the cost is something we endure together.  Today is a vindication of all of Corey’s claims of wrongful conviction; Blythe Taplin and Amir Ali walked Corey Williams out of prison today.  Corey’s release will not fix what was done, but it will begin to restore our commitment to justice.

America broke its promise to Corey, and many other children like him.  Even if this time-served plea prevents Corey from being described as the 12th person exonerated from death row in Louisiana, we at the Promise of Justice Initiative recognize that it is these broken promises that deprive Louisiana the moral authority to execute its citizens, and hope that in the next years, Louisiana will lead the movement towards redemption by repealing the death penalty, improving the justice system, and doing the hard work to ensure that no child ever endures what Corey did.

A fund-raising page for Corey is here: more information about Corey’s case is here: