These Louisiana Inmates Served Their Sentences, but the State Wouldn't Let Them Go

Plus: A potential fusion energy breakthrough, the possible return of the child tax credit, and more...


Johnny Traweek was supposed to be released from prison on May 3, 2018, but it wasn't until 19 days later that he was actually freed. Traweek did nothing behind bars to extend his sentence. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections simply hadn't processed his paperwork in time to release him on his release date.

Traweek's story—brought to the broader public's attention by The New York Times yesterday—isn't an anomaly. "Roughly 200 inmates are held beyond their legal release dates on any given month in Louisiana, amounting to 2,000 to 2,500 of the 12,000 to 16,000 prisoners freed each year," the Times reports. "The average length of additional time was around 44 days in 2019, according to internal state corrections data obtained by lawyers for inmates—and until recently, the department's public hotline warned families that the wait could be as long as 90 days." One inmate the Times talked to served an additional 18 months due to a paperwork snafu.

This is unconscionable. People in Louisiana are serving their sentences and then just…waiting. Behind bars. With no idea when bureaucrats will get around to letting them out.

Besides being cruel, this is a big waste of money. The corrections department estimates that these foulups are costing the state an additional $2.8 million per year in housing costs alone.

"Louisiana has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country," notes the Times. As a result, state officials often send inmates with shorter sentences to detention facilities run by local parishes (Louisiana's version of counties) rather than to state-run prisons. And these parishes have little incentive to make haste when it comes to releasing people.

Some "view inmates housed in local facilities as worth holding onto as free labor," reports the Times. ("They're releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money," the Caddo Parish sheriff lamented in 2017.) And when the state pays parishes to house prisoners, that can be a significant source of income.

Louisiana faces multiple class action lawsuits for failing to release people in a timely manner. The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating Louisiana over the issue.

The Justice Department investigation was announced in December 2020 but has not yet concluded.


A fusion energy breakthrough? Information is still spotty about this development, but if it's true—and scalable, and repeatable—this could be huge:

The Department of Energy plans to announce Tuesday that scientists have been able for the first time to produce a fusion reaction that creates a net energy gain—a major milestone in the decades-long, multibillion-dollar quest to develop a technology that provides unlimited, cheap, clean power.

The aim of fusion research is to replicate the nuclear reaction through which energy is created on the sun. It is a "holy grail" of carbon-free power that scientists have been chasing since the 1950s.

More on the story here.

But some are skeptical that this is as big a breakthrough as it sounds. Bloomberg columnist Javier Blas lays out some reservations in this thread:


Is the Child Tax Credit coming back? Possibly yes—with some conditions. "The White House has privately signaled to Democrats that it would support a compromise deal to revive the expanded Child Tax Credit, even if it includes work requirements it once opposed," reports Politico. More:

A remarkable shift for an administration that has resisted applying such conditions to anti-poverty programs, it comes amid a recent push in Congress to include an expansion in a year-end legislative package while Democrats still control both chambers. And it reflects the growing urgency within the administration to salvage a policy that ranks among President Joe Biden's signature achievements.

Biden oversaw a sweeping enhancement of the Child Tax Credit during his first months in office, delivering up to $3,600 to parents—including to households previously ineligible because they had no income.

An extension of the credit was held up by Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.V.), who said the scheme should have means testing and work requirements.


• "My Plate," the U.S. Department of Agriculture's replacement for the Food Pyramid, "is virtually unknown among the eating public," writes Baylen Linnekin, reporting on a study published last week by the National Center for Health Statistics. "According to the data, only one in four American adults has ever heard of MyPlate; fewer than one in eight Americans 'had tried to follow' MyPlate's dietary recommendations—including, in the latter case, fewer than 1 in 25 men."

• The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case involving the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. The case concerns whether Coinbase can use private arbitration to contend with two proposed class action complaints.

• New information released by Elon Musk to a small group of journalists details the uncomfortably close relationship between federal law enforcement authorities and social media leaders.

• The Federal Trade Commission has no business trying to stop video game company mergers, writes Reason's Scott Shackford.

• Iran has publicly executed a man "convicted over crimes committed during the nationwide protests challenging the country's theocracy," reports the Associated Press. Majidreza Rahnavard was hung from a construction crane "less than a month after he allegedly fatally stabbed two members of a paramilitary force after purportedly becoming angry about security forces killing of protesters."

• When Sen. Kyrsten Sinema defected from the Democratic Party, she sowed some welcome chaos among the political class, suggests J.D. Tuccille.