By Katie Jane Fernelius, The Appeal, April 21, 2021
In recent years, prosecutors on a mission to challenge mass incarceration have been using their power to keep people out of prison, but now they’re beginning to turn their attention to those who are already locked up. Few have pursued this as promptly and publicly as Jason Williams, the new district attorney of New Orleans, who may be setting the bar for DAs nationwide. And this focus could be transformative in New Orleans, the largest city in a state known as the nation’s incarceration capital.
Since he entered office in January, Williams has rolled out sweeping changes. He hasgranted new trials to nearly two dozen people convicted by split juries, announced he would no longer oppose parole applications, dropped his predecessor’s efforts to maintain life without parole sentences for people convicted when they were minors, and moved to secure the release of multiple wrongfully convicted people.
“There are innocent people in jail,” said Williams, who was elected in 2020 on a progressive platform. “There are people in jail for sentences that are far longer than they should be. … There are people who got convicted without a fair trial.”