My name is Kalkidan Ejamo and I recently returned from an alternative break trip to New Orleans, LA. During my visit I learned a great deal about the rich and colorful culture of NOLA, enjoyed the amazing food, did some shopping and site seeing in the french quarters, but most importantly I along with my fourteen other classmates worked on wet land restoration. We volunteered with Common Ground Relief (CGR) and we got a chance to meet some amazing people. One of them is Calvin Duncan, a man who served 28 years in Angola a prison in The 9th Ward of NOLA. Duncan was wrongfully accused of a murder he did not commit. Duncan shared his story about his time in prison as well as his efforts in fighting the ludicrous incarceration rates in New Orleans. We learned that 1 in 86 adults end up behind bars in New Orleans and according to an NPR report the jails operate under a for profit system in which the Sheriff’s in each parish receive about $25 a day per intimate. As one can expect with NOLA’s large African-American population, most of the inmates are black, some like Duncan end up serving time for crimes they didn’t commit, some are serving maximum time for petty crimes. There are many issues with the U.S. incarceration system and NOLA holds the largest number of inmates in the world.
I was really moved and shocked by Duncan’s story and I wish to educate myself as well as others about the injustice being done to people behind bars, because they are at a complete disadvantage to advocate for themselves and suffer under a compromised system. I want to advocate for them and work to find a way to improve incarceration rates in the U.S.