Louisiana, which leads the world in per-capita incarceration, has known for the past decade that state inmates routinely remain locked up well beyond their scheduled release dates – in many cases up to three months. A new report by the U.S. Department of Justice, which follows a two-year investigation, shows the scale of this unconstitutional injustice: More than a quarter of inmates are held past their scheduled release, which Justice Department officials attribute to state authorities being “deliberately indifferent” to “systemic” shortcomings. The Washington Post’s Andrew Jeong reports: 

Federal officials placed blame on an outdated administrative system that partly relies on hand-delivered or physically-mailed documents, as well as the requirement that some data be manually inputted into systems. That means even people who are entitled to immediate release after sentencing were held behind bars for several additional weeks on average, they said. Correction officials told the federal investigators that some of their release procedures were “cumbersome and time consuming,” but they still had no plans to develop a system that would allow them to receive digital documents from the courts, according to the probe.

The Advocate’s Jacqueline DeRobertis reports that the state’s negligence is costly. The overdetention in parish jails costs $850,0000 during the first fourth months of 2022 alone – or about $2.5 million per year. 

William Most, an attorney who represents people individually and in two lawsuits seeking class action status claiming overdetention violations in Louisiana, said that releasing people on time “is a legal and a moral obligation.” “Justice demands a complete and immediate overhaul of the entire system,” he said. “It’s long overdue.”

“Forever chemicals” in drinking water
High levels of “forever chemicals” have been found in the main source of drinking water for many communities in Southeast Louisiana. These chemicals have potentially harmful health effects, such as decreased fertility in pregnant women, development delays in children and increased risk of some cancers. For decades, Black communities in Louisiana’s petrochemical corridor, known as “Cancer Alley,” have faced higher levels of pollution and increased risk of cancers because of it. As Verite’s Nigell Moses explains, the exposure to harmful chemicals in drinking water is no different. 

Twin sisters Joy and Jo Banner are environmental justice advocates who have lived in St. John the Baptist Parish all their lives and have experienced the firsthand effects of living in what has come to be known as Cancer Alley. They are founders of The Descendants Project, a nonprofit organization created to support descendant communities in Louisiana’s river parishes and to dismantle the legacies of slavery. “We are not a sacrifice zone, but continually we are the ones that are sacrificed,” said Jo Banner, talking about how the promises of jobs by chemical plants has helped persuade state and local officials to allow the plants to operate near residential communities that are often Black or poor.

Americans are increasingly rent-burdened
For the first time the typical American renter is “rent burdened,” meaning they must pay at least 30% of their monthly income to afford an average rent. Devoting such a large portion of one’s monthly income to housing leaves people struggling to afford basic necessities, such as food, transportation and medical care. The New York Times’ Anna Kodé explains that paying rent has become increasingly difficult with the end of pandemic-era financial support and protection. 

“We’ve been moving in this direction for decades,” said Martha Galvez, the executive director of the Housing Solutions Lab at New York University’s Furman Center. “Since the ’70s, rents have been rising faster than incomes. And among lower-income households, high rent burdens have been the norm for a long time.” Ms. Chen also noted that the disappearance of “Covid discounts” in many major cities contributed to the burden. “The second half of 2021 is where we saw a lot of the reverse migration happening in many places in the country, with many residents taking advantage of the Covid discounts for rents in the hottest areas, like New York, Jersey, Boston,” she said. As renters migrated back into populous metropolitan areas, Covid restrictions were loosened and rents started to creep back up.

Green energy in red states
Red states are attracting most of the proposed renewable energy investments from a massive federal spending bill that received no Republican votes. That’s because the Inflation Reduction Act offered generous tax credits and incentives for renewable energy technologies, which made GOP-leaning states, many awash in sunlight, wind and land, attractive to green-energy companies and investors. The Wall Street Journal’s Phred Dvorak explains how the Democrat’s signature climate bill is luring billions of dollars to conservative strongholds. 

Of nearly 30 such announcements where locations were given, all but three had chosen to set up facilities in Republican-leaning states, as defined by the Cook Political Report based on voting during the past two presidential elections. Together, they represent more than $35 billion in potential investments, the Journal found. Red-leaning areas are also hosting the bulk of clean-power generation projects currently poised to benefit from the new law’s subsidies. Republican-held congressional districts harbor 82% by capacity of all utility-scale wind or solar farms and battery-storage projects that are currently in late-stage development, according to an analysis by business lobby American Clean Power.

Number of the Day
16.3 million – Approximate number of Americans that signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. This is more than double the number of people who signed up during the first enrollment period in 2014. (Source: The White House)