by Robert Mann

Why Gov. Jeff Landry and his allies want to take Louisiana’s criminal justice system back to the 1950s

I have at least four theories about the rationale behind Gov. Jeff Landry’s recent “crime-fighting” special session.

He and his supporters are ignorant and misguided. Even though all available evidence proves otherwise, they are blinded by ideology that says packing our prisons will make us safer.

I know Landry has many state House and Senate allies who believe this. They’re the kind of people for whom evidence from social scientists is suspect. They follow their feelings instead and are guided by vibes and mindless adherence to Old Testament theology. Their policy acumen is about as deep as the LSU lakes – shallow, silted in, and overrun by alien vegetation.

But if a state’s incarceration rate made us safer, Louisiana would be a crime-free utopia.

Landry knows that what he’s doing won’t make Louisiana safer. But it will make his supporters feel safer, probably in the same way that an abusive husband feels virulent and in control after assaulting his wife.

It is a poisonous, destructive act that still gives Landry and his crowd a temporary adrenaline rush. And, as crime in Louisiana was already plummeting, he’ll get credit for the inevitable continued decline, no matter the fact that we’d be even safer without his misguided policies.

This is nothing more than a sop to the sheriffs and the prison industrial complex that supported Landry’s campaign and now will reap a financial windfall from all the warm bodies he’ll be sending their way.

If you’ve been reading my posts here lately, you’ll not be surprised to learn that I believe Landry’s motivation combines two and three. But I think there’s another reason that is the foundation upon which two and three are built.

Racism. I’m not talking here about personal bigotry, which is a not-insubstantial ideology among Landry’s crowd. Instead, I’m talking about institutional racism. I mean the racism that has dominated and guided our legal and criminal justice systems for more than a century.

Here’s the truth: If most of those who will be rounded up and sent to prison were White, Landry would not stand for their incarceration. Can you imagine a state like Louisiana accepting a prison system that was mostly White? That’s inconceivable.

Racism is the reason, for example, that Louisiana has never executed a White person for a crime against a Black person.

At its very foundation, Louisiana’s social, economic, and legal systems are created by White people for the benefit of White people.

I’d go so far as to say that if most people sitting in Louisiana prisons for murder were White, Landry and his pals would find a way to legalize murder.

In a way, they just did. This is precisely what the civil immunity bill for people with concealed-carry permits will do: Allow White people to shoot and kill Black people they consider dangerous.

That’s not only reckless and deadly; it’s also racist.

Without institutional racism, much of what Landry did over the past few weeks wouldn’t have been possible.

It’s not just White people’s irrational fears of Black people. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s not what I mean.

This is about power. This is about the White majority signaling to the Black minority that no matter what changes are happening across our land, no matter what power, influence, and freedom Black people have gained over the past 60 years, White people are still in charge.

Landry and his supporters say, in effect, “We have the power, and we are never giving it up. If we must imprison an entire generation of Black men to stomp out the social and political advances of the past two decades, that’s exactly what will do.”

3 thoughts on “Racism is the reason”
  1. Well said, Robert Mann. Thanks Black Source Media for publishing this letter. Now we all must work together to stop this madness.

  2. Agreed! Join us this evening on Zoom for Justice & Beyond LA’s forum on “The Real Costs of Gov. Landry’s Regressive Crime Bills,” moderated by Anitra Brown, Managing Editor, The New Orleans Tribune. Panel members: Ernest Johnson (Ubuntu Village), Peter Robins-Brown (Louisiana Progress) and Kelsey Jenkins (Louisiana Budget Project). The costs are a lot more than dollars, although the $26M just approved doesn’t begin to pay for it–which means we (LA taxpayers AND New Orleans taxpayers, both) will end up paying for these regressive laws — which lock up more people, especially our black and brown children, for longer, and which will take millions away from our public schools. No promised increase in teachers’ salaries this year, or next.
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