Advancing racial equity for incarcerated people

Advancing racial equity for incarcerated people

Congress recently reinstated Pell grants for incarcerated people to be able to obtain a degree in higher education. Even with criminal justice reforms, Louisiana still leads the country and the world in per-capita rates of incarceration. LBP’s Policy Fellow Richard Davis Jr. explains how we can advance racial equity in our state by increasing higher education funding for incarcerated people. 

One of the main drivers behind this policy reversal was a recognition of the positive effects of offering higher education in prison. Studies have shown that people who participate in any form of education while incarcerated are 43% less likely to return to prison. While returning citizens continue to face a number of barriers to employment, including restrictive occupational licensing and a broken hiring process, educational attainment while in prison has been proven to lead to higher rates of employment and increased earnings upon release. 

A setback for equitable districts 
Louisiana is the second-Blackest state in America with nearly 33% of its residents being Black. But only one of the state’s six congressional districts would be considered winnable for Black candidates under a redistricting plan that cleared the state Senate on Tuesday. This would continue a long history of packing Black voters into a single district. The Advocate’s Blake Paterson reports

(State Sen. Sharon) Hewitt argued Tuesday that a map with two majority-Black districts would backfire for minority voters, even as her Black colleagues disagreed and pushed for their approval. She’s previously argued that a district needs a Black voting age population of at least 58% to ensure that Black voters can elect a candidate of their choice. The proposal from (Sen. Cleo) Fields included two districts where Black voters made up 51.4% and 52.3% of voters. Civil rights groups have said Hewitt’s “racial benchmark” is misinformed and said a more complicated analysis is needed to determine whether Black-preferred candidates will succeed in a given map. They conducted their own analysis and are confident that Black-preferred candidates would succeed. 

Prices going up as well as corporate prices 
Despite huge profits, this year, food and energy companies are hiding behind pandemic disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers and raise their prices. A new report by Food and Water finds that as prices skyrocketed, corporations rewarded CEOs with higher pay while their worker wages stagnated. Jake Johnson of Common Dream has more:

Tyson Foods—the second-largest chicken, beef, and pork processor in the world—has seen its revenue grow 11% above pre-pandemic levels. The corporation also rewarded its top executives with higher pay in 2021 even as it raised prices for consumers, blaming supply chain issues. Amanda Starbuck, research director at Food & Water Watch, argued in a statement Tuesday that “companies are hiding behind the pandemic and supply chain disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers. “In reality, 2021 revenues among the largest food and energy corporations topped pre-pandemic levels,” said Starbuck. 

After Ida, rent spikes for renters
Hurricane Ida destroyed or damaged a large portion of Southeast Louisiana’s housing inventory. But while federal policy offers some help to homeowners, renters have far fewer protections – and fewer sources of aid. Now, some tenants are finding themselves squeezed out of affordable housing, as landlords pass the costs of Ida rehabilitation projects to their tenants or use the storm as an excuse to evict low-income renters. WVUE-TV reporter Amanda Roberts explains how a spike in rental costs is driving Crescent City residents out of their homes with little to no legal recourse:

“The problem is so many tenants in Louisiana are in a month to month leases and under the law, a landlord can give as little as 10 days notice before the end of the month to terminate that lease, change its terms or raise the rent and there’s no rent control rent limits, nothing to prevent them from raising their rent as much as they want if the market supports it, so there’s very little protection for tenants who are not in a term lease,” said Hannah Adams with the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

Number of the Day
$197.8 billion – Amount of money allocated to states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for Covid-19 relief through the American Rescue Plan Act (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)