Jun 072011
 

Yesterday, a 13-12 vote by the 25 members of the House Appropriations Committee defeated House Bill 545 (by Representative Henry Burns), the prison sale and privatization bill. Experts believe it is “unlikely that the Senate will put it back in.”

Representatives who voted against the sale and privatization of prisons in Louisiana were:
James Armes III, D-Leesville;
Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles;
Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice;
Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette;
Chris Hazel, R-Ball;
Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville;
Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte;
Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans;
Tom McVea, R-St. Francisville;
Gary Smith, D-New Orleans;
Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge;
Charmaine Marchand-Stiaes, D-New Orleans
and Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport.

Representatives who voted in favor of the sale and privatization were:
James Fannin, D-Jonesboro;
Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette;
Charles “Bubba” Chaney, R-Dry Prong;
Patrick Connick, R-Harvey;
Paige Cortez, R-Lafayette;
Noble Ellington, R-Winnsboro;
Joe Harrison Jr., R-Napoleonville;
Tony Ligi, R-Metairie;
James Morris, R-Oil City;
Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs;
M.J. “Mert” Smiley, R-St. Amant;
and Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central.

There is still a US$27.5 million hole in the budget and Department of Corrections Secretary James M. LeBlanc sent layoff notices to wardens at the Avoyelles Correctional Center (Cottonport), C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center (DeQuincy), J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center (Pineville), and Forcht Wade Correctional Center (Angie). The layoffs of the 1,144 staff would be effective July 17, 2011.

Several legislators call this threat “a political tactic to scare prison workers into supporting the privatization plan,” reports NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune.

House Bill 416 by Representative Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie and House Bill 414 by Representative Joe Lopinto and Moreno aim at reducing the world’s highest incarceration rate in the State of Louisiana. NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune reports that George Steimel (lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) said, “We’ve failed to take the first step if we don’t adopt these (two bills).”

One reader commented that Louisiana’s tax payers need to get rid of mandatory sentences and three-strike laws for non-violent offenders.

On June 1, 2011, Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain asked the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice to embrace House Bill 138  by Representative Patricia Smith to lower the costs for older inmates with health problems, reported The Advocate.

The legislative session adjourns by 6 p.m. on June 23, 2011.

This might interest you as well:

USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”

How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)

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May 222011
 

book-cover

Book Cover

If truth was as clear, powerful, and respected as water, Simmons’ actual innocence—demonstrated in the new book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” by Katja Pumm—would wash him out of the penal system. He has been confined since Monday May 23, 1977—which falls on the same weekday this year.

TIME LINE

MONDAY, MAY 9, 1977 (approx. 9 P.M. – 12 P.M.):
Eighteen year-old Keith Laborde is driving around with his minor cousins Sharon and Karen Sanders in his old car. 

SUNDAY, MAY 22, 1977 (approx. 6 P.M.):
Sharon and Karen Sanders report to Sheriff “Potch” Didier, Major Fabius Didier, Captain Floyd Juneau and Deputy Barbara DeCuir at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office that a “black man” raped them on May 9, 1977.

MONDAY, MAY 23, 1977:
(7 A.M.): Captain Floyd Juneau’s and Lieutenant Robert Laborde’s shift begins.
(8 A.M.): Juneau and Laborde “decide” to arrest African American Vincent Simmons.
(9 P.M.): Simmons is strolling down Waddil Street in Marksville near the St. Joseph cemetery. Lead investigator Captain Floyd Juneau and Lieutenant Robert Laborde come by in their patrol car and arrest him “on view,” without an arrest warrant, for two counts of aggravated rape. 
At the Sheriff’s Office, Potch Didier tells Captain Melvin Villemarette to establish a line-up with the arrestee. The line-up consists of one white and seven black persons. Fotos show that Simmons (number 4) is the only one in handcuffs.Keith Laborde, Sharon and Karen Sanders are together in the room behind the mirror and indentify the handcuffed man.
(approx. 9:30 A.M. – 10:00 A.M.): Officers Laborde and Villemarette take the shackled Simmons upstairs to the ID room. They do not interrogate him. Vincent Simmons refuses to sign a confession that Laborde has formulated. Lieutenant Robert Laborde shoots Simmons in his left chest missing the arrestee’s heart by three inches. Several colleagues and the sheriff witness the scene seconds later. Laborde and Villemarette allege that Simmons took Villemarette’s gun and tried to shoot them.
Before the shooting, Keith Laborde begins to give his statements to Deputy Barbara DeCuir and Captain Floyd Juneau.
Coroner F. P. Bordelon arranges for the shooting victim to be rushed to the Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville, Louisiana. Simmons is unconscious. Lieutenant Laborde’s weapon is released for investigation.

District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll calls the victims’ family at the house of Keith Laborde’s father.Sharon and Karen Sanders give their handwritten statements.
Judge Earl Edwards now orders to arrest Vincent Simmons for the rape of Sharon and Karen Sanders. The police officers take fotos of Keith Laborde’s car and the alleged crime scene on Little California Road. Lieutenant Robert Laborde writes a supplementary report concerning the “offense” of the “investigation and shooting of Vincent Simmons” in Captain Villemarette’s and his own name.

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 1977:
Coroner F. P. Bordelon examines both girls and discovers that one of the girls’ “hymen was in tact and I was unable to insert one examining finger.” The twins mention the name “Vincent Simmons” for the first time while telling Dr. Bordelon what happened on May 9, 1977.Captain Juneau and Lieutenant Laborde request a search warrant for the homes of two of Simmons’ sisters. They seek “maroon trousers, silk looking shirt with tassle like appendages” and a “brown handle pistol about six or seven inches long.

WEDNESDAY, May 25, 1977:
(2:30 P.M.): Captain Floyd Juneau seizes a “black shirt with ruffles,” a “pair maroon jeans,” and a “pair of double knit pants (maroon in color)” at Simmons’ common law brother-in-law’s house. The investigators Floyd Juneau and Robert Laborde charge Vincent Simmons with two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of attempted murder.

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 1977:
Four days after the shooting, Vincent Simmons is released from hospital. Sheriff deputies take him back to Avoyelles Parish and put him in a one man jail cell at the Sheriff’s Department.  
 

FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1977:
The Grand Jury of Avoyelles Parish indicts Vincent Simmons for two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of attempted murder and returns a True Bill.Coroner F. P. Bordelon formulates his findings about his medical examination of the two fourteen-year-old girls in his written reports addressed to District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll.  

THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 1977:
Public defender Harold Brouillette files a Motion for Preliminary Hearing. Judge Earl Edwards orders that “a preliminary hearing be held in the case of State of Louisiana vs. Vincent Simmons on the two counts of aggravated rape on the 7 day of July, 1977, at 1 o’clock P.M.” 
WEDNESDAY,

JUNE 29, 1977:
The United States Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty is unconstitutional for the crime of rape.
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 1977 (1 P.M.):
After the preliminary hearing, Judge Edwards schedules Simmons’ trial for July 18, 1977.
 

THURSDAY, JULY 14, 1977:
Assistant District Attorney Jeannette Theriot Knoll files a Motion to Amend Indictment. She requests that the indictment of two counts of aggravated rape be amended to two counts of attempted aggravated rape. Judge Edwards signs the motion behind closed doors–without a second Grand Jury hearing.
Note: now after the decision in Coker v. Georgia, aggravated rape only carried a twenty-year sentence per count upon conviction because there was no other law in the books yet. Attempted aggravated rape, however, would imprison Simmons for fifty years per count, if convicted. 
 

MONDAY, JULY 18, 1977: jury selection 

TUESDAY, JULY 19 and WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 1977: trial. It ends with a guilty verdict. 

THURSDAY, JULY 28, 1977:Judge Earl Edwards imposes a one hundred-year sentence (fifty years for each count, to run consecutive).

Case summary with documents on the Innocent in Prison Project International website at http://cases.iippi.org/vincent-alfred-simmons/

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May 092011
 

prison tower

Louisiana State Prison tower

As administrations of former Louisiana Governors, also incumbent Governor Jindal has made a growing economy in the rural state his priority number one. The Republican tries to create new jobs by attracting investors, i.e. companies, to Louisiana, and his promise to “veto any tax increase that comes to [his] desk” is his bait. Jindal explains that higher “taxes kill jobs and opportunities.”

Jindal’s intention aparently is to make Louisiana a tax haven for businesses hoping they will employ (more) people from Louisiana. Halliburton, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is his latest acquisition for his re-election campaign. (Governor Jindal’s term expires on January 9, 2012.) In the first week of April of this year, Jindal’s administration announced that Hulliburton would open a manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Louisiana. The company will produce “complex machined components for oilfield service operations” and create 150 direct and 350 indirect jobs, writes Governor Jindal on his blog.  Louisiana’s most profitable branche is the oil industry. Thus, Jindal presses for the permission of drilling from the federal government despite the oil spill one year ago.

At the same time, renewable energies, as e.g. wind power or solar energy, get momentum in Europe. The automobile industry works hard on improving new types of motors that are independent of fossil fuels. But the thinking in the oil state Louisiana has not changed yet.

Imagine you have lots of oil and nobody needs it! Jobs seem to be a free ticket for nearly everything in politics. As long as something creates jobs, progressive changes are not made, and chances are that it is subsidized by the state, i.e. the tax payers. Another example is the prison industry.

One chapter in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” is entitled “Local Prison Industry.” A new discussion about this issue began when Governor Bobby Jindal formally submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Executive Budget to the Legislative on March 11, 2011. 

There is a US$1.6 billion gap in the Pelican State’s household next fiscal year (2011-2012, beginning on July 1, 2011), unless the government increases taxes or cuts spending. Jindal opposes higher taxes. The consequence is that there must be some savings somewhere. But where? Jindal’s proposal is, among others, to sell three state prisons

1.      the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, Louisiana

2.      the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, Louisiana (already privately run)

3.      the Winn Correctional Center in Atlanta, Louisiana (already privately run),

and to downsize the J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center in Pineville, Louisiana, from a 580-bed state facility to a privately run 300-bed prison.

Corrections workers of Avoyelles Parish in particular, spearheaded by former Representative Raymond Laborde (he spoke up for a state prison in his home parish in the 1980s to decrease the locally high unemployment rate), current State Representative Robert Johnson (his term expires on January 9, 2012) and Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles A. Riddle, III, have answered with a protest movement. They rallied and attended a hearing at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Their slogan is “Save our prison, save our parish.”

The current discussion is “state prisons versa private prisons.”

Arguments pro private prisons:

·         Private prison operators run prisons at a lower daily rate per offender than the state.

·         The sale of the state prisons would help bridge the US$1.6 billion-gap in the household’s budget in the fiscal year 2011-2012.

Arguments contra private prisons:

·         Jindal’s plan does not make any sense to Raymond Laborde who rhetorically asked the Associated Press, “Sell my house today and rent it tomorrow?”

·         Private corporations make profit and can generate huge amounts to contribute to political campaigns. Sponsored, elected officials then can return the favor with policies that benefit the donors.

·         Prison staff is reduced and replaced by high-tech cameras.

·         Telemedicine increases to save transportation costs for ill inmates.

·         Reduced pay and benefits for employees.

·         There are fewer programs to prepare prisoners for life after their release.

·         Private corporations invest less than the state to train their corrections workers.

·         Cuts in state jobs would have a snowball effect in rural Louisiana. It would increase unemployment, have a negative effect on the financial stability of families, and limit their buying power in the community.

However, I believe the State of Louisiana could save much tax money and would not need to privatize state facilities if the actual roots of the problem were solved. The USA, often dubbed the “Land of the Free,” has the highest incarceration rate worldwide, and Louisiana is the number one prison state nationwide. Go figure: Louisiana alone is the number one worldwide! Why is that?

·         Too many things are criminalized in Louisiana.

·         Too many non-violent offenders occupy prison bunks.

·         The penalties often are too long and do not have a rehabilitative effect.

·         The existing penal system is too expensive and eats away funds for social services, basic education, and health care.

·         There is something seriously wrong when politicians use fear of crime and unemployment to incarcerate masses of people at the tax payers’ expense.

There are several facilities in Avoyelles Parish. The collection consists of the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, the Avoyelles Bunkie Detention Center, the Avoyelles Women’s Center in Simmesport, the Avoyelles Simmesport Correctional Center and the main Avoyelles Parish Jail at the Sheriff’s Office in Marksville. Only a juvenile correctional facility and a federal prison are missing yet. But this may change soon. According to an article by The Advertiser, the Lafayette Regional Office of Juvenile Justice announced last Friday that Avoyelles Parish now is one of five interested parishes that would welcome a new facility for troubled Acadiana youth in its area.

The forum of the Innocent in Prison Project International provides much info on the issue Prison Industry here.

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