Think Justice Blog

Justice in Katrina's Wake

Hurricane Katrina was a tipping point for the New Orleans criminal justice system. It brought a public unmasking of perverse system practices that were commonplace before the storm and catalyzed a broad rethinking that continues ten years later. Through the voices of those who fought for reform—from elected officials to community organizers, advocates to public health experts—this blog series reflects on local incarceration practices, the movement to foster fairness in its criminal justice system, and efforts to increase safety for all communities. These voices highlight how far we have come, how far we still have to go, and where New Orleans fits in the national movement to end the over-use of local incarceration.

All Posts

  • Kenneth Polite
    Kenneth Polite
November 13, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

Pretrial Justice

At the federal level in the Eastern District of Louisiana (EDLA), our Smart on Crime approach includes rethinking pretrial justice. On the local level, pretrial detainees make up a considerable—and costly—portion of our jail population. At any given time, near ...

  • Derwyn  Bunton
    Derwyn Bunton
November 06, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

The shameful cost of unnecessary detention

More than 15 years ago, I met with nearly two dozen teenage boys in a room inside a juvenile prison in northeast Louisiana. We all knew each other, but we had never all come together before. I was their lawyer and they were my clients; they represented the cla ...

  • Michael Cowan
October 28, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

Getting jail size right now

I think it unlikely that an American city has ever undergone a more profound transformation of its social fabric than New Orleans in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina abruptly disorganized the institutional status quo. The import of this disorganization for ...

  • Luceia LeDoux
  • Charmel Gaulden
October 21, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

What will be different for New Orleans in the years to come?

“What is different?” That question rested on the lips of the many people—policymakers, journalists, and funders—who visited New Orleans to survey the city’s progress 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Some described the physical rebuilding of the city—stronger, ...

  • Dolfinette Martin
    Dolfinette Martin
October 12, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

How pretrial services empower the underprivileged

The first time I was arrested was in 1994. I was five months pregnant with my youngest daughter when I was taken into custody and booked into Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). I spent three days in the booking center with only two cement blocks or the cement floor ...

  • Norris Henderson
October 05, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

Grassroots organizers key to rebuilding New Orleans

In the wake of any disaster, there are always relief efforts. Ideally, the work is led by local populations to identify their needs and strengthen the base of a community. The rebuilding frenzy of post-Katrina New Orleans is nearly over, and America is likely ...

  • Rosie Washington
September 23, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

To act justly

Micah 6:8 states: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. New Orleans has the persistent dubious distinction of locking up our residents at more than dou ...

  • Susan Guidry
September 04, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

Why is bail more closely tied to wealth than risk?

“I’ll bail you out”—we say that phrase so often it has become an idiom divorced from meaning. The concept of having to pay to secure your freedom has become so ingrained in American society that people rarely stop and ask “why?” This is America—you are innocen ...

  • Flozell Daniels
August 28, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

Reform efforts bear fruit, but racial disparities remain

As we mark ten years since Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levee system, countless pundits and policymakers will lift up New Orleans as an example of resilience. And it is. But it should not have to be. People in New Orleans who’ve been marginalized a ...

  • Jon Wool
    Jon Wool
August 24, 2015

Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake

Ten years after Katrina, New Orleans has changed course on incarceration

There is an important course correction happening in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. The tragedies wreaked by the levee failures on poor communities was paralleled by a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to mitigate another harm those communities suffered rep ...