March 4, 2008


Before I get into my experiences so far here in New Orleans, let me first thank the 2 groups who have financed my trip.

  1. The Federal Government ($560 tax return)
  2. Everyone I have played poker against in the last 3 weeks, including the fine folks at the New Orleans Harrah's ($380)
So here I am in New Orleans at the Public Defender's Office. It has been exactly what I thought it would be, but I didn't think it would have such an effect on me. I figured it would mostly be young black kids facing drug charges, and the first guy I interviewed was a 17 year-old high schooler who was in lockup for possession of marijuana. This kid is on the baseball team and plays the trombone in the school band, it was his first offense and they had him chained up wearing an orange jumpsuit just like the rapist and armed robber. How traumatic for this kid for a stupid offense; this "war on drugs" is a big joke. One of the staff members here mentioned that 55% of Federal prisoners are there on drug charges...55%!! Can you imagine how much strain could be relieved by eliminating jail time for drug offenses? Our prisons wouldn't be as crowded and it wouldn't take 10 years to appeal a case. This country has spent billions fighting the "war" on drugs and you can still buy marijuana in any city in America with no problems; what have we accomplished? But I digress...

It's amazing how much work the people here do and how little they get paid. We have a volunteer staff of over 20 and we are all busy. I don't know how they get by without an army of volunteers. It is weird, though, to look for ways to get somebody released from prison when they have been arrested for robbery or gun charges. Normally I would think, "good, keep 'em there, they screwed up." But after 2 days of work I feel like I need to bust my ass to give them the same opportunities that Robert Downey, Jr. gets when he gets busted for drugs. Money may be able to buy expensive lawyers who can find loopholes, but it cannot buy justice. If my work allows one person the same opportunities as someone who can afford a lawyer, then my trip here was a smashing success.

I have at least 2 more days here (not sure if I'm working Friday) so I'll have a recap and some funny stories later.

1 comment:

Ems said...

very cool jeff...I look forward to hearing more about your time there.

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