Lawsuit frees two Orleans Parish men held in East Carroll Parish

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The Louisiana Department of Corrections has released two men who were arrested in Orleans Parish and shipped to East Carroll Parish for housing.

The MacArthur Justice Center filed a lawsuit on January 12 to secure the release of prisoners Jessie Crittindon and Eddie Copelin. One day later, the two men were free, according to the center.

The prisoners had been sent to East Carroll Parish for temporary housing because of staffing concerns in the Orleans Parish Prison, but MacArthur Justice Center co-director Katie Schwartzmann said there was no indication why they were there or for how long they were supposed to stay.

And they weren’t alone.

“This is a great victory for these two men, who should have been home with their families months ago,” Schwartzmann said. “However, we believe there are over 100 additional affected individuals who should have been eligible for either release or transfer to DOC custody but have been sitting in the East Carroll Parish jail with no legal classification. The work to identify and process those additional men continues.”

Schwartzmann credits the DOC for acting quickly to free these prisoners, but stresses that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“This must not be dismissed as a simple bureaucratic mistake,” Schwartzmann said. “It’s as serious of a constitutional violation as one can think of. And the lack of concern with which our December 28 letter was treated by the East Carroll authorities is a clear indication that this facility is unfit for the continued housing of prisoners.”

MacArthur Justice Center attorney Emily Washington said legal action should not be required in this case and in the many others like it.

“This problem would have been avoided if the proper steps had been taken by these agencies once these individuals received their court sentences,” Washington said. “At the very least, this should have been fixed when we notified the agencies of the illegal holds weeks ago.”

And while the DOC may have acted quickly in this case, Schwartzmann said the same cannot be said of the authorities in East Carroll Parish.

“This raises questions about why the East Carroll Parish jail is being used as a detention facility by Orleans Parish and by the Department of Corrections,” Schwartzmann said. “We have seen deeply troubling patterns in the time that Orleans prisoners have been held there. Now it is clear that they cannot even process basic information about whether they have the legal authority to detain the men in their custody. The use of East Carroll by the State and Orleans Parish should end as quickly as possible.”