August 09, 2006

The Lost City of Atlantis

Incarcerated without proper legal representation. Witnesses long gone. Evidence destroyed. Courthouses backlogged. People locked up with no trial.

This ain't Guantanamo. This ain't Libya. No, not China. Not even Iraq. The New Orleans Justice System is in such shambles, the city's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee identified five problems with the current state of affairs in New Orleans law:

1. An inability to properly subpoena police witnesses to testify at trial.
2. A backlog of criminal cases which occurred due to the destruction of certain courtroom facilities and the delay in moving forward with trials because of displaced personnel.
3. The destruction of courtrooms and other criminal justice facilities.
4. The condition and storage of evidence to be used in pending criminal cases.
5. The ability of the Orleans Indigent Defender Board to provide criminal defendants with adequate representation.

Not all of us are lawyers, so I'll attempt to translate. One: we can't find witnesses and we can't pay to find where they are now. Two: we have no judges, attorneys, bailiffs, or cops. Three: oh yeah, no courtrooms either. Four: we lost a bunch of evidence. Five: no money, you got problems.

It's been almost a year: no homes, no justice, no law, no safety, no jobs, and NO HOPE.

As we promote democracy overseas, we turn our backs on our own brothers and sisters. As we build infrastructure elsewhere, we let it rot in our own backyard. As we preach brotherhood and reminisce on how far we've come since MLK, we allow kids to return to battle-zone schools with no teachers. We allow another generation to continue the cycle of disenfranchisement, poverty, and miseducation.

We allow another generation to see America's true colors: “It’s not simply a case of volunteers coming in and dealing with the backlog of cases,” said David Carroll, the director of research and evaluations at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in Washington. “Katrina was not the cause of the indigent defender crisis. It was a catalyst that accelerated the longstanding deficiencies.”

Here's a start: VOTE.

ALLEN TOUSSAINT: The Allen Toussaint Collection
WAR: The World is a Ghetto


Blogger Amadeo said...

I'm glad you put something about this up...I've been wondering. I know it's bad when someones paperwork is misplaced...but when the whole city is misplaced...people will basically rot. Even in B'more I know teenagers sitting for over a year just waiting to get to trial...and we haven't had a Katrina.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Hummingbyrd said...


This sh*t is bout to be RIPE FOR A BIG @SSED class action ock.

For trill.

Where tha ACLU?

9:53 AM  

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