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Louisiana Task Force Explores Inclusive Prison Education

29 Nov 2023, Jail News, by

Louisiana’s task force explores prison education reforms, focusing on enhanced options for the incarcerated, including those on death row.

Louisiana Task Force Explores Inclusive Prison Education - Inmate Lookup

A task force met for the first time on Tuesday to explore whether Louisiana should spend more money and provide more options for the prison education and job training of its incarcerated population, including those who have been sentenced to death.

Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, authored House Resolution 174 earlier this year, which created the task force. The task force is made up of higher education representatives, corrections officials, criminal justice advocates, and formerly incarcerated people. The group is chaired by Tulane University sociologist Marko Salvaggio.

The initial meeting largely focused on organization, discussing the committee’s scope and goals. The committee must submit its report to the legislature before March 1, right before the regular session is scheduled to begin on March 11. Task force reports, while non-binding, typically play a role in the drafting of legislation.

Advocates say that there is a need for more educational and vocational programs at Louisiana’s correctional facilities, primarily through partnerships with local colleges, and that additional funding is needed.

In Tuesday’s meeting, there was a consistent concern raised about the minimal educational services for incarcerated individuals serving life sentences. Kiana Calloway, one of the task force members, spoke about her first-hand experience with that imbalance.

At the age of 16, Calloway started serving two life sentences when a non-unanimous jury convicted him on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of armed robbery, and a count of feticide in 1997. A new trial was granted upon the revelation that the original judge had prohibited Calloway from calling specific witnesses or mandated the prosecution to disclose two witness statements. The charges were subsequently reduced to manslaughter, and a new prison sentence of 34 years was imposed.

Calloway asserts his innocence and mentions that only after his sentence was reduced could he avail himself of educational programs in prison.

Calloway raised concerns about addressing issues in the prison education system, questioning who has access to the programs and why certain individuals are excluded from education opportunities.

Alongside the collection of data on existing programs, committee members reached an agreement to analyze the elements missing from the current available prison education programs.