East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Project
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* Within one minute of the YouTube video posting a $50 donation was made. As a community we can make the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison take accountability for the safety and mental health of all citizens.
Following the killing of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge Police officers in July 2016, many people gathered in Baton Rouge to peacefully protest. Many protesters were arrested and detained at the East Baton Rouge Parish prison. The accounts of their detainment presents a disturbing window in to the conditions of the East Baton Rouge Parish prison. The Promise of Justice Initiative and esteemed Loyola Professor of Law, Andrea Armstrong, authored a report: Punished Protestors: Conditions in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
The investigation made clear that not only are the conditions of confinement in the jail inhumane--including denial of basic sanitation and medical care, physical violence, and disregard of due process--but that there is also a level of cruel intentionality to the treatment of detained citizens. In addition to basing the report on more than a dozen interviews of arrested protestors, the report relies on the Health Management Associates’ presentation of their study on the medical practices at the jail, prison policy manuals, and local and national statistics.
Erica Navalance, staff attorney at the Promise of Justice Initiative and principle author of the report, notes:
“The 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; and
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.”
After the release of this report, and while researching a forthcoming report documenting the deaths that have occurred in the jail from 2012 to 2016, the Promise of Justice Initiative has continued to use other tools to expose and reform the conditions inside of the jail.
The Promise of Justice Initiative also hosts community meetings to discuss the conditions of the jail and launch a community coalition. Individuals share the stories of either their own inhumane confinement, or stories of loved ones who tragically died while in the jail’s custody. You can read more about the meeting in the press release here or the local newspapers coverage of it here.
Since publishing the report and hosting community coalitions, PJI has partnered with The Fair Fight Initiative to combat the inhumane conditions at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. This partnership, along with our stakeholders, allows PJI to provide the best representation against some of the most unacceptable prison conditions we have witnessed.
The Fair Fight Initiative (FFI) is a non-profit corporation* founded by lawyers with deep roots in civil rights and social justice advocacy. FFI's vision is to expose and eliminate brutal jail and prison conditions, violent and even deadly police brutality, and prosecutorial misconduct. FFI's mission is to represent individuals and families who bring claims that other lawyers refuse to accept because they are too risky or too expensive to litigate, to seek justice through the law and other advocacy, and to level the legal playing field. The current system rewards lawyers and law firms who defend unconscionable law enforcement conduct through a financial rewards system that promotes filing endless motions, fighting routine discovery requests, and engaging in needless litigation because the firms are paid by the hour - often by insurance companies. With public support, FFI will accept and prosecute cases regardless of cost and risk, expose mistreatment by law enforcement, work with communities to reduce the criminalization of Black and Brown people, reduce unnecessary detention and incarceration, and hold law enforcement accountable.
PJI has been working with the lawyers from FFI to uplift the stories of their clients. PJI and FFI coordinated a press conference when Jonathan Fano's family filed a Federal Lawsuit for the widespread neglect and illegal treatment of mentally ill people incarcerated in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. PJI and FFI continue to collaborate by supporting the creation of a community coalition working on reforming the jail.
Funds donated to the Promise of Justice Initiative and the Fair Fight Initiative will be used to continue exposing the conditions of the jail through publishing and disseminating additional reports, producing additional videos about the conditions, suing on behalf of individuals who have wrongfully died in the jail, and supporting the creation of the community coalition. All contributions will be split equally between the two organizations.
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*The Fair Fight Initiative's 501(c)(3) status is pending.