Media Relations Associate
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Baton Rouge (March 26, 2020)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and YWCA Greater Baton Rouge announced today they will be urgently bonding out 27 individuals from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison as cases of the coronavirus surge across Louisiana.
There have been nearly 1,200 positive cases in the state, with more than 40 confirmed in the parish alone. East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said last week it is “just a matter of time” before COVID-19 finds its way inside the jail’s walls, endangering the lives of everyone in detention, the staff and ultimately further jeopardizing the entire region.
“The novel coronavirus requires a novel response. We can’t maintain the status quo and expect this pandemic to work itself out,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Every day we keep someone needlessly incarcerated during this crisis is a matter of life and death and we can’t delay action any longer.”
“The selection of the YWCA Community Bail Fund as a grantee from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is an honor that will offer us the ability to help our most vulnerable citizens during this time of need,” said Dianna Payton, CEO of the YWCA Greater Baton Rouge. “Now 27 more people will be able to await trial without being put at excessive risk.”
Local community leaders and experts voiced wide support for the action, recognizing that reducing the number of people held unnecessarily at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is a critical humanitarian need and public health priority during the crisis.
“Properly responding to this global pandemic will require the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison to immediately release hundreds more vulnerable citizens incarcerated in this jail,” said Ashley Carter, senior staff attorney at Advancement Project National Office. “Jails are especially susceptible to the spread of infectious disease and it is in the best interest of all East Baton Rouge citizens to weaken the impact of this virus by releasing as many individuals as possible.”
For the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, a community advocacy group that seeks to reform inhumane and deadly conditions at the EBRPP, the bail out action is a welcomed first step as they rush to avoid the consequences of an outbreak that could devastate poor, black and brown communities throughout the city.
“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate—the domino impact of an outbreak at EBRPP cannot be underestimated. As of today, there are over 1,200 citizens housed at EBRPP and we are watching the clock to move as many individuals out as quickly as possible and removing the barrier of low and no wealth families trying to raise money bond helps address this need,” said Rev. Alexis Anderson, member of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition and one of the participants of the Coalition's Courtwatch Baton Rouge project.
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.
YWCA Greater Baton Rouge
As a Chapter of the national organization, YWCA Greater Baton Rouge works to accomplish two goals: Eliminate Racism and Empower Women. In partnership with diverse stakeholders in the Capitol Region of Louisiana, the YWCA has worked to ensure that women and children from low-wealth and economically challenged communities have better access to economic opportunity through programs designed to provide affordable childcare, address the spread of HIV/AIDS, prevent teen pregnancy, improve social justice and train women for a competitive workforce.