Sheriff Wants To Keep ‘Good’ Inmates Locked Up For Slave Labor

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Steve Prato, a Louisiana sheriff, ranted during a press conference about how criminal justice reforms in the state will release inmates he uses to pick up trash.

Inmates at Orleans Parish Prison in the recreation yard

A Louisiana sheriff’s own words highlight the stark reality that the prison system is a form of modern-day slavery.

Sheriff Steve Prator of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, has gone viral after a video clip from a press conference spread like wildfire. In the clip, Prator vented about losing cheap labor due to new criminal justice reform laws.

Prator was criticizing the Justice Reinvestment Act — which is set to be implemented next month — because it offers early release of thousands of inmates throughout Louisiana, The Root reports. This, according to him, includes 192 of his own inmates in Caddo Parish.

“There’s ways and things that need to be reformed on the criminal-justice system, but certainly we don’t need to do what we’re about to do,” Prator said.

The new legislation is part of an initiative to change the state’s reputation as the most-imprisoned state in the country. The act will, hopefully, reduce the state’s prison population by 10-12 percent, and in doing so, save about $262 million over the next decade.

Prator, however, sees this act through a completely different lens.

“Simply put, the state of Louisiana is risking our safety for bragging rights and to save money,” he said.

Although, his later remarks suggest that safety isn’t really his concern at all.

“The [prisoners] that you can work, the ones that can pick up trash, the work-release programs—but guess what? Those are the ones that they’re releasing,” Prator fumed in the clip first tweeted out by prominent black activist Shaun King. “In addition to the bad ones … they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that where we save money, well, they’re going to let them out!”

Adding insult to injury, Prator made these remarks while surrounded by African-American officers. This is especially egregious as black and Latino men make up a large percentage of prisoners nationwide. 

Alas, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Correction Secretary James Le Blanc set the record straight and clarified that Prator's statistics and numbers were pretty far off base. 

“It’s not like it’s some opening of the gates and everybody’s releasing here,” Le Blanc said. “This is 1,400 inmates that are going to 21 different districts.”

“I have all the respect in the world for Sheriff Prator. I just don’t know if he really knows what the numbers look like,” he added.

It seems that Prator was also misinformed about the number of inmates to be released from his own facility. According to Le Blanc, only 35 inmates will be granted release in November as per the Justice Reinvestment Act.

In short, not only was Prator's assessment downright racist and insulting, it was also false. 

These concerns expressed by Prator demonstrate a slave plantation owner's mindset and only perpetuate the racial disparity within the criminal justice system. 

Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Famartin

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