OPD Symposium Discusses Mass Incarceration and Sentencing Reform

A Tulane Law School symposium Friday commemorated the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a right to counsel for indigent defendants with a daylong program that focused on the intersection of race, poverty and public defense.

The symposium, called "Gideon 50 Years Later in New Orleans" for the Gideon v. Wainwright decision, was held in conjunction with Orleans Public Defenders, used the anniversary to tackle the twin issues of mass incarceration and sentencing reform in Louisiana.

An afternoon panel featured former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten; 5th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Ricky Wicker; state Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie; Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc; Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana; and Cindy Chang, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times who authored a 2012 series on Louisiana's prisons for The Times-Picayune.

Even as Louisiana's overall crime rate has been in decline since 2007, LeBlanc said, it remains the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation, at 874 persons per 100,000 citizens.

"We've been a lock-'em-up state," LeBlanc said, "but lock 'em up and throw away the key is not the answer."

Read more at The Advocate.

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