Baton Rouge group works to keep people out of jail, help people navigate the court

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Voice Of The Experienced is working to reduce the rate of people put and kept in jail in Baton Rouge. The organization hosted the Unjustified summit Saturday at Held at the McKinley Alumni Center.

“We’re here because Baton Rouge is addicted to locking people up,” says Jennifer Harding, a chapter organizer for VOTE.

According to VOTE, more than 75% of people in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison are being held before they’re been to trial, meaning they’re legally innocent and not convicted of a crime.

By teaching people their rights before going to court, their hope is that number can be reduced.

“We’re here to really talk about solutions of things that we can do to get to the root causes of some of the crime and violence in our community, and how we can heal both our systems and change some of the things were doing wrong,” says Harding.

A highlighted conversation was about the number of people unable to make bail. It’s technically against the law to set bail higher than what a person can afford.

Amelia Herrara is a VOTE organizer, she works with families who have faced unjust treatment from East Baton Rouge prison. She’s passionate because of all the disparities she’s seen families face in the past year. She explains incarceration has a trickling effect because it’s not just the imamate that faces repercussions.

“East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is actually a jail. It is a pre-trial detention facility, so folks are there but innocent until proven guilty. Yet they’re being housed there for a lengthy amount of time,” says Herrara.

Holding an inmate may be good for the prison’s pockets, but it leaves families in a tight spot because they’re left to pick up the pieces when their loved one is wrongfully convicted, or can’t afford their bond.

“My only child was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and he actually was railroaded into the system. Incarceration ruins families, breaks up homes and it’s just very despairing,” says Chantel Nicholas.

The event ended with six groups breaking out with plans for more community conversations. They want to figure out what can be done differently to improve East Baton Rouge’s justice system.


About Mary Weyand 14483 Articles
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