The Guardian’s US southern bureau chief, Oliver Laughland, has spent the past six months following what happened when a progressive Black district attorney called Jason Williams was elected in Louisiana, the heart of the deep south. Jason had promised sweeping reforms across New Orleans, and part of that change involved opening up a civil rights division to look over old cases. Kuantay Reeder has been in Louisiana’s ‘Angola’ prison since 1995 for a murder he says he didn’t commit. Will the division be able to help him?
It’s 2020. New Orleans. The most incarcerated city, in the most incarcerated US state. The city has elected a progressive Black district attorney, Jason Williams, who promises to change the system from within. One of the first things Jason does after he wins is set up a new department in the district attorney’s office – the civil rights division – led by Emily Maw.
A small team of lawyers and investigators is tasked with looking back through more than 1,000 old cases, examining whether each convicted person should still be in prison.