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Cruel and Unusual Punishment at Angola Prison Persists 

— February 8, 2024

State of Louisiana attempting to overturn order to offer prisoners humane medical care.

Louisiana – A federal judge’s order for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to remedy “unconstitutional” and “abhorrent” medical care for people at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola should be upheld, according to a new filing today by the plaintiffs in Parker v. Hooper, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of the thousands of people incarcerated at Angola.

On November 6, 2023, Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to remedy unconstitutional conditions of medical care at Angola. The ruling was a milestone in the 2015 class action lawsuit (originally known as Lewis v. Cain) brought by 17 men incarcerated at Angola, who are represented by The Promise of Justice Initiative, Democracy Forward, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU of Louisiana, and Disability Rights Louisiana. It was the second time in four years that the court found Angola’s health care system to violate the Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Photo of the Constitution of the United States of America. A feather quill is included in the photo.
“We the People” means all of us. Image by Navyatha123, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

The state has appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit, which will hear oral argument on March 4, 2024, at 2 pm.

Democracy Forward and the Promise of Justice Initiative released the following statements regarding today’s filing: 

“Angola’s leadership has had years to fix their practices while our clients suffered needlessly from treatable conditions,” said Jeffrey Dubner, Legal Director for Democracy Forward and co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “The district court was right that this ‘callous and wanton disregard’ must come to an end. We look forward to telling our clients’ stories to the Fifth Circuit, and to the day that all those imprisoned in Angola can receive the humane treatment the Constitution requires.”

“The corrosive toll of incarceration on a person’s health cannot be denied,” said Lydia Wright, co-lead counsel from the Promise of Justice Initiative. “The evidence clearly demonstrates what our clients have always known: that the State has deliberately denied basic healthcare to thousands of people, over the course of decades, resulting in a status quo of constant illness and despair. No longer.”

Judge Dick’s opinion is found here, the Court’s remedial order is found here, and today’s filing can be found here.

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