To facilitate learning construction skills, prisoners at the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) participate in a government-funded private vocational program. That program, the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater New Orleans, Inc. (OIC), a non-profit, is not supposed to benefit politicians or public officials.
In July 2006, OPP prisoners were put to work on the home of 1st City Court Judge Angelique Reed. Her uncle, David Reed, owns a private construction company and was overseeing construction on an addition to Judge Reed's house.
On July 10 and 11, David Reed was "loaned" two prisoners by OIC's executive director, Philip Baptiste. The prisoner laborers then did "exploratory digging for the footing for the addition" on the judge's property. After the worksite was visited by The Times-Picayune and the Metropolitan Crime Commission on June 11, Baptiste was questioned about the arrangement; he then ordered the prisoners off the property, saying it was "improper involvement."
While Baptiste had allowed the prisoners to work with David Reed, "he didn?t know where I was taking them," Reed stated. "I thought I was doing good." Reed said the prisoners were doing nothing while sitting in jail, and the work was an opportunity to get more hands-on training.
Judge Reed, in a July 15 letter to the editor, disavowed any knowledge that prisoners had been involved in work at her home. She noted, however, that it was better for prisoners to "develop their skills building houses rather than breaking into them."
Over recent years, OIC has received around $300,000 from the Louisiana Legislature and $450,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its building program.
Source: The Times-Picayune
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