Urgent Need To Reduce Louisville Jail Population

An open letter to:

Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville
Contact the Mayor’s Office or call 502-574-2003

Mike O’Connell, Jefferson County Attorney
Mike.OConnell@louisvilleky.gov or call 502-574-6336

Tom Wine, Commonwealth Attorney
tbwine@louisvilleprosecutor.com or call 502-595-2300

Leo Smith, Public Defender
lgsmith@metrodefender.org or call 502-574-3800

Dwayne Clark, Director, Louisville Metro Department of Corrections
Dwayne.Clark@louisvilleky.gov or call 502-574-8477

Urgent Need To Reduce Louisville Jail Population

To protect the public health and respect the humanity of all residents in Jefferson County, we call on you to take immediate action for more significant reductions in the numbers of prisoners being held in Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, including immigrants and young adults.  We appreciate the measures already taken; yet holding as many as 1,300 persons in confined spaces during this pandemic is a clear and present danger to their health and everyone in our community.

We know from the most recent available data, that there are significant racial disparities among those who are arrested and detained in our jail. We also know that a large percentage is awaiting trial, so have not been convicted of any crime. They are detained despite constitutional rights because they cannot pay cash bail. 

This means that Louisville Metro residents of color and poor people, who are at the highest risk for COVID -19, are being held in our jail with little possibilities for physical distancing or prospects for timely releases by the courts. We know that many of these people have families, whom they have not been able to visually see since mid-March with no certain knowledge of when they will see them again.

We measure our community health and common humanity by the collective good of all who live here.  As community leaders, you have the responsibility and accountability for taking all possible actions to protect the health and safety of all.

 We understand some might doubt that our community lacks the resources to ensure an orderly release of prisoners protecting the health and safety of all.  According to the most recent available data, in 2018 Louisville Metro Government paid $80.51 a day to house each person in our jail. With approximately 1,300 people in our Jail as of April 7th, those costs come to $104,663 per day. Every person released will free incarceration money, such as this, that can be redirected to essential health and re-entry services lacking now.  With your leadership, our community can provide the medical, financial and basic human supports, such as the necessary photo identity cards, these Louisvillians need to succeed. 

For all these reasons, reducing the number of prisoners in our jail is an urgent priority to protect our community’s health and collective humanity. We appreciate that due to the efforts of organizations like ACLU of Kentucky, Governor Beshear has directed some reductions of prisoners in local jurisdictions, which have lowered our jail population.  The Bail Project of Louisville also continues to reduce the numbers. Yet, with over 1,000 women and men remaining confined, releasing prisoners from our jail is an urgent priority to protect the health and wellbeing of us all.

Judi Jennings, Louisville Family Justice Advocates

Shameka Parrish-Wright, The Bail Project-Louisville

Savvy Shabazz, All Of Us Or None – Louisville Chapter, and Each One Teach One

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