Seven years after Katrina, New Orleans' criminal justice system is in dismal shape, according to reporting by Karen Houppert in The Nation. In the first of a series investigating the "failed promise" of Gideon v Wainwright—to mark the upcoming 50-year anniversary of the landmark 1963 Supreme Court ruling that states are required to provide free legal aid to defendants who otherwise cannot pay for counsel—Houppert looks at the Orleans Parish Prison, where 230 defendants have been awaiting legal help, in some cases for over a year.
Houppert, a 2012 John Jay/Public Welfare Foundation Reporting Fellow, found that as federal help to New Orleans has dried up since the hurricane, the fiscal crisis in the city's criminal justice system has hit hardest on those who need help most: impoverished defendants. The picture across the country, she writes, is not much better. To read the opening piece of the series, which was supported by the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, please click HERE.