A nonprofit that advocates for criminal justice reform asked the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday to open a civil rights investigation into law enforcement in southwestern Louisiana, citing a long history of misconduct.
The Promise of Justice Initiative called a federal inquiry “the only pathway to justice” for Jefferson Davis Parish and surrounding communities that are subjected to a “dangerous level of incompetence by law enforcement.”
The New Orleans nonprofit cataloged decades of corruption, from deputies dealing drugs to trafficking female inmates for sex, and highlighted the so-called Jeff Davis 8, possibly related killings of women that have remain unsolved for more than a decade.
The group wrote in a letter to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division that “local residents remain concerned that law enforcement agents directly or indirectly participated in these murders.”
“The Jefferson Davis Parish law enforcement agencies and leadership have a long tradition of misconduct and corruption that has gone unchecked,” the letter says. “This behavior has encouraged criminal activity and violence, especially violence against women, to flourish in the region.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the department has received the letter and is “considering the information provided.”
A message was sent to the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office seeking comment.
The Justice Department has drastically scaled back its civil rights investigations under President Donald Trump.
But the Promise of Justice Initiative implored federal authorities to take a close look at law enforcement in Jefferson Davis Parish amid a national conversation about police reform.
The request comes months after a five-part docuseries called “Murder in the Bayou” drew new attention to the Jeff Davis 8 and painted a picture of allegedly pervasive law enforcement corruption in the region. Among the claims is that jailers in Jefferson Davis Parish regularly trafficked female inmates for sex.
The Associated Press, citing state and FBI records, reported last year that at least a half-dozen women told authorities that deputies raped and trafficked them to male inmates inside the long troubled jail.
The AP found that one of three deputies charged in that 2002 corruption case remained a small-town police officer in Louisiana.
The Promise of Justice Initiative said in its letter to the Justice Department that it had collected witness accounts and statements that indicate “widespread sexual abuse and trafficking” of inmates.
“Jailers have trafficked women in and out of the Jefferson Davis Parish Jail for nearly two decades,” the letter says.
Read the full letter and find more information from Promise of Justice here.
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