The Hard Truth – The Boissiere defection and bad ethics
3rd December 2012 · 0 Comments
By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
The tail-tucking flip-flop of Lambert Boissiere on the lowering of the ridiculous phone rates in Louisiana prisons and jails is bad, really bad. But it’s not the worst thing about the issue.
Whatever the Sheriffs’ Association may have threatened him with or offered him was enough to get him to “crab out” of his commitment to vote to give relief to the families of persons incarcerated in this, the largest per capita incarcerator in the world.
To add insult to injury, Boissiere gave the limp explanation that the sheriffs needed more time to come up with a plan. The insult may have been toward the sheriffs. The issue has been on the docket since April of last year. Any competent administrator or group of administrators would have had more than enough time to come up with a proposal. Perhaps the only Black Commissioner is saying that the sheriffs aren’t very bright and need more than a year or two to put their ideas on paper.
Nah, Boissiere was saying what most elected officials really mean when they turn their backs on their constituents, “Any excuse will do.”
The Boissiere defection is a really bad thing which he should be held accountable for. But it’s not the worst thing about the phone rate issue.
The worst thing about this issue is the ethics…or lack thereof.
No one even challenges the fact that the rates for prison phone use are unfair and exploitative. In Louisiana the average call is 30 cents per minute or 15x the usual 2 cents per minute charged elsewhere. Plus for prisoners all kind of other fees and deposits are charged. In other words the prisoners and their families are being robbed.
The sheriffs say this is a good thing because the phone companies pay them a lot of money for the privilege of fiscally raping prisoners and their families. They say they need the money and this justifies using cheating and exploitation to get it. It’s okay to be unfair to prisoners and their families. After all, what’s lower than a criminal?
Which brings us to the other concern, in most parishes like Caddo, where I live, most of the inmates (70% here, 50%+ statewide) are not officially criminals. They are suspects sitting there waiting for trial because they could not make bail, however they are making money every day for the people running the facility holding them. There is something wrong with a judicial system that has people sitting around being exploited for weeks, months or years waiting to find out if they are guilty or innocent of a crime.
The sheriffs are very clear that what you do to get money is not a concern, just get it.
It is troublesome when those entrusted with upholding legislated moral standards of a society let you know that they believe “anything goes” as long as it makes them money.
If they are openly confessing that profit is their only value, then why not sell cocaine and other drugs? Why not do contract hits or engage in prostitution to bring that cheddar in for the facilities. As one rapper said, “I – Git – Money!”
The argument that Boissiere and the Sheriffs make for electronic exploitation and cheating prisoners is the same one that every pimp, slinger, hit man, robber and burglar I have ever encountered gives, “I got to get mine any way I can.” The values are absolutely equal. Who has influenced whom?
On December 12, the Louisiana Public Service Commission has the opportunity to do the morally right thing. The people have an opportunity to contact them beforehand and be there to hold them accountable.
So, that annoying questions pops up yet again…. WHATCHAGONNA.
This article originally published in the December 3, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.