Up is down, left is right, black is white — Louisiana is again on its way to no longer leading the nation in imprisonment rate thanks to innovative prison reform efforts.
In 2018 the Pelican State, for the first time in forever and ever and ever, dropped to second place in the highest number of people per capita in prison, giving way to new champion Oklahoma. Louisiana quickly reclaimed its title not long after but state leaders are determined to again re-direct the narrative.
Part of the reason for the initial turnaround in 2018 was Governor John Bel Edwards’ focus on reducing the number of Louisianans behind bars. While cynics claimed he was just making space because there are a lot of Edwardses in Tangipahoa politics and the Feds were sniffing around, others applauded his innovative approach to prison reform. Now, he’s putting even more groundbreaking measures into action.
After revolutionizing education in the state during phase one of the plan, another measure is the new “half-release” program. This program releases inmates for up to 12 hours a day to start up and grow new businesses. Not only will it help the economy, but it will also give prisoners opportunities for entrepreneurship while cutting the prison population almost in half.
The first of these inmate-run enterprises, ‘Felons,’ is a new niche restaurant and bar soon to open just outside of New Orleans in Lakeview.
“We will have the best stick in, sorry, stick to your ribs Southern Correction food,” said Vinnie “Spider” Freeman, the restaurant manager and a 20-to-life man.
Spider said he got his idea for the restaurant while at Angola Penitentiary.
“I was working in the kitchen up at the Ranch House, and Gordon Ramsey comes in. Really helped us out with how to run a kitchen. But then he started yelling at everybody, and that’s how he got shivved and spent the weekend as Little Mo’s girlfriend over in Camp J.”
When asked about specific dishes, Spider said they are still fine-tuning the menu.
“Some various choices on ramen noodle soups. Ramen noodles with chili beans and tuna. Maybe some honey buns at breakfast. Mostly, whatever the state’s commissary warehouse has available. Once we throw the switch and the open sign lights up, it ultimately all comes down to execution, execution, execution.”
If you’re feeling leery about dining at a joint with employees who have rap sheets longer than CVS receipts, Spider assures the public that each server will be accompanied by a correctional officer throughout each shift to assure good behavior.
“Whoa, whoa, hold up. Your server might be doing time for armed robbery, drugs, arson, or murder but, look, the only thing illegal going on here will be our rock-bottom prices! It’s like getting away with tasty, tasty murder. Or so a birdie told me.”
Governor Edwards said he plans to attend the opening of Felons to celebrate the prison reform.
“It will be an incredible experience beyond all reasonable doubt! Lock up your taste buds and throw away the key! Felons is going to become your new guilty pleasure!”
When asked how the neighborhood is responding, Spider said many are skeptical.
“I’m not worried,” he concluded, “We’ll break into their hearts.”