“This is why New Orleans “is the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated country in the world,” as Mayor Mitch Landrieu has puts it. Of the city’s local inmate population, 80 percent are sitting in jail awaiting a trial. They are there because they couldn’t post bond, secure a lawyer, or because their attorneys are so inundated with cases that they’re incapable of setting up hearings in a timely fashion. It also means that they’re presumed innocent and haven’t been proven guilty, but are imprisoned nonetheless. “
“New Orleans will apply the MacArthur money towards its efforts to reduce its average daily jail population by 27 percent over the next three years.”
The jail reform plan for the grant includes shifting to “arrest and release decisions [based] on risk and not financial ability.” [Plan available here]
Which puts me in mind of this recent article on Mississippi, which, in the 1990s guaranteed its counties local jails would remain 80% full, and today pays regional facilities per day, per prisoner, plus local jobs to keep the jails as full as they can.
“As the wave of mass incarceration begins to recede, the Mississippi controversy has local and state officials talking openly about how harmful locking up fewer people up will be for the economy, confirming the suspicions of those who have argued that mass incarceration is not merely a strategy directed at crime prevention. “Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration, a social tool used for punishment, also became a major job creator,” Antonio Moore, a producer of the documentary “Crack in the System,” wrote recently.“
From City Lab –
“While African Americans are only 60 percent of New Orleans’ population, they make up 86 percent of its jail population, and are arrested for felonies at 2.5 times the rate as whites.”
In case anyone needed to be more convinced of how broken the system is, as fyi, the public defender’s office is still $600,000 short this year, which led them to declare earlier this year that they would stop taking cases.
In 2005, Clyde Woods wrote about neoplantation politics that helped create the Hurricane Katrina, expanding on his insistence on the continued existence of a post-slavery plantation bloc whose agents worked, into the 20th century, to capitalize on and truncate black life in the Mississippi Delta:
“After prolonged attacks, the neoplantation social philosophy reemerged in the 1980s with its psychological, sociological, cultural, and journalistic descriptions of African American inferiority intact. With a perfect eugenics-informed pedigree, “underclass” models of deviancy, family dysfunction, criminality, and nihilism were once again deployed. This time the social scientists were charged with masking the expulsion of millions of African Americans from historic urban communities, the mass incarceration of African Americans, and mass disenfranchisement with categories such as renewal, gentrification, revitalization, new urbanism, and “smart growth.”” (Woods, Clyde A. “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?: Katrina, Trap Economics, and the Rebirth of the Blues.” 57, no. 4 (2005): 1012)
This is important. Woods hits on how much there is to dismantle here, to abolish. Financial systems built on arrests, bail, court fees, warrants and jailing black people. Ideas about black inferiority and criminality bolstered by public relations campaigns (like “Say No to Drugs”), ideas of black dysfunction (which, incidentally, often turned on poor black women and mothers as dangerous matriarchs gaming the welfare system), to justify predatory policies.
Radical action needing to be tied to radical thought to unlock the common sense of the carceral state which is the post-Jim Crow state which is the post-slavery state.
Everything in Louisiana and Mississippi’s situation brings me back to slavery studies and the study of bondage. Everything. Everything.