Thursday, September 13, 2012

Conference: "The Business of Incarceration in Louisiana: Do Prisoners Have Human Rights?"

With one out of every 86 adults behind bars, the State of Louisiana has more people incarcerated per capita than any other societal group in the history of the human race. Additionally, the practice of incarcerating individuals for natural life without the expectation of parole – for a wide range of offenses – has been elevated to an unprecedented level here, with Louisiana currently utilizing the option at nearly 4 times the national average. In real numbers, this means that more than half of the 5,100 prisoners at Angola State Prison will die in that institution, despite the fact that an ailing elderly prisoner costs the state $80,000 per year.

With cost-cutting issues frequently touted as of crucial importance in every area of our government, financial considerations alone, then, would seem to call for a more rigorous examination of prisoners’ rights in the interest of lowering the sheer numbers of those warehoused by the state. Nevertheless, Louisiana doubled its prison population in the past 20 years. And it is meaningful that 70% of the state’s prisoners are African-American. According to a New Orleans Times-Picayune expose’ published in May, 2012, more than half of the inmates in the state are housed in local prisons run by local law enforcement agencies that sorely need the funds generated in this way. So, arrest and incarceration are now very much driven by financial incentives.

On Friday, September 14, 2012, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., the Southeastern Sociological Association at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond (halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans) will host a conference for academics, lawyers, students, advocates, activists and former prisoners to examine prisoners’ rights in Louisiana today. The intent is that those who attend will be able to share information and create a plan for networking in the future to maximize their effectiveness in the work that they do.

Topics will include, but not be restricted to: schools as a pipeline to prison, prison conditions, community re-entry issues, minority over-representation, women in prison, long-term solitary confinement, natural life sentencing, capital punishment, and the burdens of prisoners’ families. Speakers, breakout sessions, planning workgroups, and time to network will be provided, and the keynote address will be delivered by activist/lawyer Bill Quigley, professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University in New Orleans and Associate Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City.

The conference is open to the public and the registration fee (which includes breakfast and lunch) is only $25 for professionals, $12 for students and low income individuals, and free for ex-prisoners. For more information, call 985-549-5731.


Brotha Wolf said...

Sounds informative. I wish I could attend.

changeseeker said...

I wish you could have, too, Bro. You would have taken things to a whole new level. ;^)

Z said...

It was a truly great conference, I say belatedly.

changeseeker said...

And a truly great conversation at that great little coffee shop after the conference, as well, Z. Thanks for your help.