A day after a civil rights law firm filed a pair of lawsuits, state corrections officials on Friday released two New Orleans prisoners who had been held behind bars in northeastern Louisiana for months after they had completed their sentences.
The MacArthur Justice Center hailed the release of the prisoners, Jessie Crittindon and Eddie Copelin, as "a great victory," adding that the men "should have been home with their families months ago."
The two had been among several hundred New Orleans inmates sent in 2015 to East Carroll Parish amid a staffing crisis at the city's new jail.
Attorneys with the MacArthur Justice Center said they suspect several other Orleans inmates have been held beyond their release dates, citing a "breakdown in the process of releasing prisoners or sending them to (the state Department of Corrections) once they are sentenced by" Orleans Parish judges.
Katie Schwartzmann, the law firm's co-director, called upon the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office to discontinue housing inmates in East Carroll Parish, which is hundreds of miles from New Orleans. The distance has frustrated defense attorneys and family members of pre-trial inmates.
"We have seen deeply troubling patterns in the time that Orleans prisoners have been held there," Schwartzmann said. "Now it is clear that (authorities) cannot even process basic information about whether they have the legal authority to detain the men in their custody."