LOUISIANA (KTAL/KMSS) – A lawsuit was filed against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Prison Enterprises that challenges the forced agricultural labor practices at the Louisiana State Penitentiary known as Angola.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana by Promise of Justice Initiative and Rights Behind Bars, on behalf of VOTE (Voice of the Experienced) a non-profit organization, and four inmates currently housed in Angola. The plaintiffs seek to represent all the people forced to work on what is called the “Farm Line.” There are also two subclasses named in the suit one for people with disabilities and the others includes people who were convicted by non-unanimous juries.

Promise of Justice Initiative Associate Director of Civil Litigation said the DOC has not evolved beyond labor practices that were prevalent during slavery.

“Louisiana’s evolution from mass enslavement to mass incarceration is undeniable,” said Lydia
Wright, PJI Associate Director of Civil Litigation. “Angola’s fields were once cultivated by
enslaved people. Today, the State forces incarcerated men—primarily Black men—to plant and
pick plantation crops by hand, without safety equipment and in extreme heat and humidity. The
State extracts this labor by threatening incarcerated men with serious harm, including
disciplinary confinement, if they protest the unsafe work conditions or fail to meet arbitrary
efficiency quotas. This is cruel and unusual.”

PJI and RBB are calling for a DOJ investigation of the department of corrections’ operation of the Farm Line. They claim the prison forces people with serious disabilities and health conditions to work the Farm Line in “extreme heat and humidity.”

“The Farm Line is unambiguously coercive and exploitative,” said Samantha Kennedy, PJI
Executive Director. “It’s beyond time for Louisiana to end this degrading and unconstitutional

The groups call the risks taken by workers on the Farm Line unacceptable and say they harm the individuals psychologically as well.

“Forced labor cannot continue in Louisiana, particularly the type of forced labor that people at Angola are subjected to, which is intended to harm,” said Oren Nimni, Litigation Director for Rights Behind Bars. “The intolerable and obviously dangerous conditions of the Farm Line subject everyone at Angola to an unacceptable risk of physical and psychological harm and the risk is even greater for individuals with disabilities.”

To learn more about the work that PJI is doing to end plantation prisons visit labor.promiseofjustice.org