Media Relations Associate
New Orleans (March 24, 2020)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Safety and Freedom Fund (SAFF) at Operation Restoration announced today they will be facilitating the emergency bail out of 22 people incarcerated pretrial at Orleans Parish Prison amidst rising concerns over how quickly COVID-19 could spread across a vulnerable jail population living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Already, a medical staffer at the jail has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, increasing the threat of an outbreak in the broader New Orleans community.
“Twenty-one years ago, I experienced firsthand what it's like to languish in jail simply because you can't afford your freedom. There's nothing more terrifying and unjust," said Montrell Carmouche, director of SAFF. "I couldn't be more proud to team up with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and ensure these 22 people will receive more equity and some much-needed compassion as they await their day in court, a mission that takes on life and death implications in the face of the pandemic.”
While the global health crisis has intensified the need to reduce jail populations, New Orleans’ unlawful cash bail system has long been in need of reform.
“Not one more person should be subjected to the horrors of pretrial detention, let alone die behind bars because of our failure to act during a crisis,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “It’s been more than 50 years since my father called for equal justice for all New Orleans citizens, no matter their wealth. In the decades since, the city has repeatedly failed to address wealth-based detention, allowing cash bail to exacerbate racial and economic inequality across New Orleans. We must finally take action.”
It was in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1964 that U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy cited an American Bar Association survey of felony cases showing high percentages of pre-trial detention in cities across the country, with New Orleans among those at the top of the list.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues, pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.
Safety and Freedom Fund at Operation Restoration
Since 2016, Operation Restoration has sought to support women and girls impacted by incarceration to recognize their full potential, restore their lives, and discover new possibilities. Its Safety and Freedom Fund, in partnership with local and national allies, has redesigned the role money plays in the criminal justice system by providing bail for New Orleanians who can't afford even modest amounts, restoring the presumption of innocence and helping make New Orleans safer and more equitable.