For the second year in a row The First 72+ partnered with Isidore Newman High School to facilitate a 360 degree view of the criminal justice system in New Orleans. This year we started by having breakfast with Gerald Davis while he told his personal story of his first memories of having interactions with police, being arrested, going to jail, having bonds set, taking plea deals, being arrested again, and ultimately ending up in prison.
From there students spent half the day at the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court House attending hearings, and meeting one-on-one with a sitting judge.
They then returned to our office to have lunch with a group of formerly incarcerated men who did their time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola). This lunch time discussion was designed to prepare them for their visit to Angola the next day.
On Tuesday the students along with several members of our staff took the long ride to Angola for a special tour where they had the opportunity to meet currently incarcerated people, as well as hear from men who served time during various periods of Angola's long history. They were joined by our newest resident, Antonio, who just returned home less than a month ago. It was his first time back.
On Wednesday the students met with the Chief of Trials for the Orleans Public Defenders Office before returning to our office to have lunch with the head of the Department of Corrections, James LeBlanc, and the head of the Department of Probation and Parole.
After that the students went down the street to have a meeting with District Attorney of Orleans Parish, Leon Canizzaro.
On Thursday the students spent the morning at "Voice of The Experienced" (VOTE) where they met with Will Harrell to discuss current legislative reform efforts underway in Louisiana. They also met with Simone Levine of Court Watch to discuss criminal court and bail reforms.
In the afternoon they met with Sarah Schirmer, a criminal justice policy advisor for the Mayor's office to discuss risk assessment tools and bail reform. In the afternoon they attended an active trial at the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court House.
To close out the week, on Friday, students started the day by watching the Netflix Original Documentary, "13th."
This was followed by a panel discussion with a group of accomplished and dedicated advocates from across the city who are fighting in their own way to affect change in the criminal justice system and during reentry. Thank you Will Snowden of Vera Institute of Justice and The Juror Project, Leo Jackson of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Cashauna Hills of Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center!