In a recent tweet, 29-year-old Pro-Bowler Demario Davis expressed, “there is nothing more precious than freedom.” Indeed. Freedom is precious, yet it is far from the reach of many American citizens. A man of great faith and wide influence, Davis uses his platform as an NFL player to shed light on injustices and to tell the people of Louisiana to VOTE on November 6th, 2018.
Davis’ perspective on freedom is fitting, as he advocates for people who are fighting for their lives in the criminal justice system. Being a Saints player, Davis now represents a state that has held a long term label for being the world’s prison capital. Nearly six years ago, The Times-Picayune reported, “among black men from New Orleans, one in 14 is behind bars; one in seven is either in prison, on parole or on probation. Crime rates in Louisiana are relatively high, but that does not begin to explain the state’s No. 1 ranking, year after year, in the percentage of residents it locks up.” In 2018, the rate of incarceration remains unyielding. Louisiana, now only second to Oklahoma, incarcerates 1,052 for every 100,000 citizens (the equivalent of 1 in 100 citizens). The state of Louisiana has also historically imprisoned black men at record setting rates. A 2017 review of Louisiana incarceration describes the conditions as such:
“Louisiana’s largest prison, Angola, currently holds 5000 inmates. The ACLU reported in 2013 that 95% of its prisoners are expected to die within the walls of Angola. In general, Louisiana sends people to prison for nonviolent offenses at rates higher than any other state in the country, and compounds the issue with long sentences, often times life without parole, according the ACLU report. Louisiana also incarcerates black people at disproportionate level and 65.4% of those serving life without parole are black.“
The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) lends confirmation to the need for bail reform, particularly in New Orleans. The OPPRC proposes a municipal bail reform ordinance for the reason, “too many people sit in jail simply because they are too poor to make their bond.” The topic of non-violent offenses is important. As mentioned previously, Louisiana sends people to prison for nonviolent offenses at higher rates than any other state. Many of those who are in Orleans Parish Prison are, in fact, charged with nonviolent offenses. According to OPPRC, 90 percent of people inside Orleans Parish Prison are awaiting their day in court (only 10% of people residing in the jail are actually convicted of a crime and serving the sentence). Nonviolent offenders who await their opportunity to defend their innocence do so under the confines of prison conditions. They are not granted a reasonable chance at bail; they are treated as guilty before they have gone to trial and been formally convicted. For many, the Louisiana system is such that you are guilty until proven guilty.
The work of Demario Davis and the Players Coalition is to shed light on these injustices and advocate for reform. The following objectives outline their efforts:
- Contribute to change in local and state government policies through advocacy impacting criminal justice reform legislation
- Educate the public on social justice and racial equality issues directly impacting local communities
- Engage public participation towards solutions
A responsible husband and father, Demario Davis has remained committed to the rally for social equity. He recently received the “In Pursuit of Justice” award for his personal advocacy in criminal justice reform. He advises, “there can be no margin of error when making decisions regarding someone’s freedom.”
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