Louisiana 'Deliberately Indifferent' to Holding Prisoners Beyond Their Release Dates, Justice Department Says

Angola Prison
The Lousiana State Prison, better known as Angola, is the largest maximum-security prison in the United States.Getty

Louisiana is "deliberately indifferent" to holding prisoners past their release dates, the U.S. Justice Department says in new report.

Louisiana routinely and with "deliberate indifference" holds prisoners beyond their release dates in violation of the Constitution and refuses to overhaul its troubled system, according to a scathing report released by the U.S. Justice Department.

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections “is deliberately indifferent to the systemic over-detention of people in its custody,” the report stated. The findings followed a yearlong investigation that examined inmates in state prisons and local jails, the Justice Department said.

About 27% of state prisoners were held past their release dates from January to April of 2022, the report said. Nearly one quarter of those prisoners had been wrongly held for 90 days or longer, the Justice Department found.

“The Constitution guarantees that people incarcerated in jails and prisons may not be detained beyond their release dates," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. 

The investigation determined that prisoners are "routinely" held "far beyond" their release dates, Clarke said in a statement. "We are committed to taking action that will ensure that the civil rights of people held in Louisiana’s jails and prisons are protected," she added.

Louisiana officials cooperated with federal investigators and are discussing an agreement to overhaul the system, the Justice Department said. But the investigation found evidence that the state has known about the release delays for at least 10 years and has done little to fix them, the Justice Department said.

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections said in a statement on Thursday that it couldn't issue a "comprehensive response" to the federal report until the department thoroughly reviews the document.

"The Department of Corrections is currently reviewing the U.S. Department of Justice report that was released Wednesday," the statement said. "Without a full review of the report's findings and documentation supporting said findings, it would be a challenge to provide a comprehensive response at this time. The Department of Corrections has been cooperative for the entire duration of the investigation, and we will continue to work with DOJ throughout this process."

The practice of holding prisoners past their release date is also costly, the federal report said. The inmates' housing costs alone are at least $2.8 million per year, the Justice Department said.

In a class action suit filed in 2021, attorneys representing inmates held past their release dates allege the state's illegal practice is "unlawfully and knowingly over-detaining thousands of Louisiana residents in its custody every year." 

Related Stories