In a letter sent to Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he is open to amnesty programs for traffic warrants but is still hopeful the council will consider some form of a misdemeanor jail.
Marcelle, along with some of the other women on the council who represent low-income areas of the city, was a vocal opponent of a temporary misdemeanor jail proposal, opened for two weeks at a time, to round up people with numerous outstanding warrants for misdemeanor offenses.
Opponents compared it to a debtor’s prison, which targets low-income, mostly black non-violent offenders, who get trapped in a cycle of being unable to pay more and more fines and fees. They said the majority of the people not coming to city court are unable to pay their fines and fear they will be put in jail.
Moore has argued that these people are openly flouting the law, and there are limited resources to compel people to go to come to city court.
In his letter to Marcelle and copied to the rest of the council, which was sent early this week, Moore states that he still believes in the need for a misdemeanor jail.
“Our evidence is unequivocal that the announced operation of misdemeanor detention facility, even on only a temporary basis, provides a long lasting effect of a 20-40% reduction in violent crime in our city,” Moore wrote.
“Your comments last week suggested that you could support temporary operations if we first worked together to host an amnesty program in your district for traffic offenders afraid to come to court,” he continued. “I do understand your concern that opening the jail, even on a temporary basis, could result in additional hardship for some of your constituents. We can work together to minimize hardship for those willing to come forward to address their issues voluntarily in an amnesty program.”
In the letter he says he’s willing to work with council members, judges and traffic court staff to do this before the end of the year. He then requests a meeting with her at his office next week.