Obama CareThis is a powerpoint explaining Obamacare and how it connects with Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and the uninsured.
While Colorado and Washington have de-criminalized recreational use of marijuana and twenty states allow use for medical purposes, a Louisiana man was sentenced to twenty years in prison in New Orleans criminal court for possessing 15 grams, .529 of an ounce, of marijuana.
Corey Ladd, 27, had prior drug convictions and was sentenced September 4, 2013 as a “multiple offender to 20 years hard labor at the Department of Corrections.”
Marijuana use still remains a ticket to jail in most of the country and prohibition is enforced in a highly racially discriminatory manner. A recent report of the ACLU, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” documents millions of arrests for marijuana and shows the “staggeringly disproportionate impact on African Americans.”
Nationwide, the latest numbers from the FBI report that over 762,000 arrests per year are for marijuana, almost exactly half of all drug arrests.
Even though blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people.
For example, Louisiana arrests about 13,000 people per year for marijuana, 60% of them African Americans. Over 84 percent were for possession only. While Louisiana’s population is 32 percent black, 60 percent of arrests for marijuana are African American making it the 9th most discriminatory state nationwide. In Tangipahoa Parish, blacks are 11.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites and in St. Landry Parish the rate of black arrests for marijuana is 10.7 times as likely as whites, landing both parishes in the worst 15 in the country.
In Louisiana, a person can get up to six months in jail for first marijuana conviction, up to five years in prison for the second conviction and up to twenty years in prison for the third. In fact, the Louisiana Supreme Court recently overturned a sentence of five years as too lenient for a fourth possession of marijuana and ordered the person sentenced to at least 13 years.
Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) argues that “the “war on drugs” has been, is, and forever will be, a total and abject failure. This is not a war on drugs, this is a war on people, our own people, our children, our parents, ourselves.” LEAP, which is made up of thousands of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities, has been advocating for the de-criminalization of drugs and replacing it with regulation and control since 2002.
Arrests and jail sentences continue even though public opinion has moved against it. National polling by the Pew Research Center show a majority of people support legalizing the use of marijuana. Even in Louisiana, a recent poll by Public Policy Polling found more than half support legalization and regulation of marijuana.
Karen O’Keefe, who lived in New Orleans for years and now works as Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said “A sentence of 20 years in prison for possessing a substance that is safer that alcohol is out of step with Louisiana voters, national trends, and basic fairness and justice. Limited prison space and prosecutors’ time should be spent on violent and serious crime, not on prosecuting and incarcerating people who use a substance that nearly half of all adults have used.”
Defense lawyers are appealing the twenty year sentence for Mr. Ladd, but the hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests continue each year. This insanity must be stopped.
June 14, 2013
This is what a Movement Lawyer Looks Like
In the 1960s, the term movement lawyer emerged to identify the lawyer that provided legal support to the social movements of the time from civil rights to women rights. Movement lawyers fell along a wide ideological spectrum from Thurgood Marshall as the lawyer for NAACP to William Kunstler. There were less publicly known lawyers such as Leo Branton Jr. who represented Angela Davis. Since then, lawyers who see their work as providing support to social movements have not always used the term to identify themselves. Instead, descriptions like public interest or social justice lawyer are more often heard. This is in large part due to the changing political context of the 1980’s and 1990s, which saw a more conservative political climate combined with a professionalization of the field. In Retrenchment and Resurgence? Mapping the Changing Context of Movement Lawyering in the United States, Michael McCann and Jeffrey Dudas discuss this political shift as going from a “favorable context for rights-based, legally oriented social movement activity” to an “increasingly unsupportive, hostile context by century’s end.” This changed political landscape may inform the new identifications of lawyers. In 2013, as I use movement lawyering to identify my work, it almost feels anachronistic. However, I think now more than ever it is important for to revive it for next generation of lawyers.
Post 60’s, lawyers committed to using law for social change began working around certain issues or causes. Lawyers became siloes in their specific causes – employment, housing, or human rights to name a few. Organizations presented themselves as non-profit organizations or public interest law firms. In my own legal career, I found myself defined as a public interest lawyer to social justice lawyer which are not negative designations and are useful identifications but do not fully capture the necessity of lawyers to work in support of grassroots, broad based movements for social change. Although social movements in the late 90s to early 2000s were diffuse, I understood my work to be informed and in support of a larger movement for socio-economic change both in the United States and globally. The way I entered the work was through my interest in labor rights, but my practice has required me to pick other areas of specialties as needed by the clients, communities, or community based organizations I represented.
It is rare these days for young lawyers to identify themselves as movement lawyers. That is because it is hard to identify what movements they are aligning with. Instead, new graduates committed to public interest focus their attention on securing good public interest jobs. The increased professionalization of public interest and social justice lawyering as a career has some benefits in that it increases the training and opportunities for those interested in this work, but it has a negative impact in that new graduates do not see their work as being part of a broader vision for social change. As a result, I observed many young lawyers feel disillusioned, or “burnt out”
With the founding of Center for Constitutional Rights’ Social Justice Institute, and in their recent second annual conference Movement Lawyering in the 21st Century, there is a possibility to revive, reframe movement lawyering within the current socio-political context. There is a strong need for this type of training to bring together new and experienced lawyers across issue areas to see where there are common areas for support and to share lessons learned. There are also some positive lessons from movement lawyers of an earlier generation that us newer lawyers can learn such as the limitation of a litigation-based strategy. There are ways in which a new generation of movement lawyers can imagine a broader vision for social change. I do think that young lawyers today who are committed to movement lawyering face unique challenges to their work, because they are required to engage their advocacy on multi-levels litigation, policy, education and media, all in conjunction with grassroots organizations with differing ideological views. They are often called upon to draw from a wide range of skills, often not taught in law schools.
Within this context, as a law professor, I think what skills or knowledge is necessary for us in law schools to provide to students. Some traditional skills that law schools teach are helpful such as client centered lawyering. Others such as collaboration, mediation or negotiating different client interests and views are not.
There are ways law schools could do more but I don’t expect that to happen on an institutional level because it is not in the business of law schools to train movement lawyers, except for a handful of law schools whose explicit mission is to gear students towards using their legal education for social change. Still, I think there is alot that can be done at the micro faculty-student level that can be enormously helpful. Students at places where their law school do not see public interest as their explicit mission should organize with other law students and consider ‘teach-ins” and other self-education initiatives to prepare them for social justice work. I am confident that lawyers and educators would welcome and support such student led education initiatives. Even where they may not be any possibilities for institution wide changes, supportive faculty and students can implement simple curricular changes. Here, it is important to note that students can play a pivotal role in demanding classes and training to allow them to be effective public interest or movement lawyers. Afterall, they are paying a hefty price for their education? While not an exhaustive list, below are some areas that legal educators who are committed to developing movement lawyers should incorporate into their curriculum.
Uncertainty of Law – Given that we devote so much time and money to the study of law, it is natural for lawyers to want to hold up law as some fixed, tangible good and continue to reify it to make our delivery of legal services valuable. Our legal system does that by giving judge made decisions precedential effect to create a body of common or positive law that occupies its own fixed space, which we refer to the rule of law. From this body of law, rights are assigned, delineated. But, when we learn that there is an uncertainty to this law, and it is not as homogenous, or neatly packaged as first year doctrinal course or bar exam prep classes would like students to believe, we may feel we lose that tangible good, and therefore, we may not be much of service. However, it is important to teach law to reveal its uncertainties and unpredictability. Making explicit the internal tensions, contradictions within the doctrine are helpful to demystify the law, and to allow students to see openings for advocacy. Simply by asking for example what are the policy imperatives for certain rulings to enforce private contracts – who benefits, what interests are served – and by engaging students in a discussion on this will get them to a robust conversation on law and economics.
Critical Conscientious Subjects – Much of the literature on public interest lawyering asks the lawyer to subsume herself to the movement. Understandably, a lawyers’ privileged position in society, and being the conduit to the legal system for communities often excluded requires lawyers be conscious of their position in the system. Yet, they know the legal system, and should use that knowledge towards movement building efforts in ways that their clients seek. Also, much of the literature assumes that the lawyer lives outside or does not align herself with the community being served. For working class identified or students of color, it does not make sense to create this division between lawyer and community, because they are from the communities that they serve, and need different ways to renegotiate their standing in the community as a lawyer. By teaching students to be critical and conscientious subjects is far more helpful than prescribing some generic relationship to social movements.
Social Movement History and Legal Theory – All students should take a class or conduct their own teach-in on social movement history and/or legal history. To this day, my class on Critical Legal Theory helps me to understand my work. Having this historical and theoretical knowledge allows the student to better understand how laws have operated historically, and what ideologies were employed to maintain certain narratives that denied rights to people and communities. Students will be better equipped to understand their role within movements if they understand the framework within which they are operating.
Power of Story telling and Skill of Engaged Listening – In the first year of law school, students struggle to learn a large amount of doctrine so they can know the law. They read facts only to dutifully convert them like raw materials to legal theories. In this process, they often ignore the details of the client’s story. Key feature of injustice is to render our client voiceless without an opportunity to say – I was wronged. By engaged listening, law students can very simply remedy this. We underestimate the power of listening and its healing and transformative potential. Also client stories are powerful ways to highlight injustices in our system.
There are many more classes and skills that legal educators can focus on, and the challenge for movement lawyers is that the work we do is so diffuse and specialized that is hard to predict the precise set of skills needed. But, at least students equipped with critical thinking and engaged listening skills and a strong footing in movement and legal theory is a good start.
Social Change Lawyering Gets the Goods!
Today, AIDS United is convening a special meeting of the Southern REACH legal providers, and WWAV Executive Director, Deon Haywood, will be giving the lunchtime address. She will be speaking about the unique relationship we built with our legal team during the NO Justice fight, where our lawyers followed the lead of the women most affected by the “crime against nature” law and understood themselves as being in constant relationship and service to this movement to end criminalization — something that Bill Quigley calls “social change lawyering.”
We are grateful to Bill for putting the principles that have guided him down on paper. Please scroll down for his “Ten Questions for Social Change Lawyers,” or click here to download a PDF.
TEN QUESTIONS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE LAWYERS
William Quigley [FN1]
Copyright (c) 2012 Public Interest Law Reporter; William Quigley
Social change lawyering starts with the idea that history shows us that systemic social change comes not from courts or heroic lawyers or law reform or impact litigation, but from social movements. [FN2] Social change lawyers work with, assist and are in constant relationship with social movements working to bring about social change. [FN3]
Social change lawyering is a process, not an achievement. It is a path we walk with others to confront the root causes of injustice. What lies ahead is not known. There is no map. Our directions are set by constantly checking a compass that points toward justice. There are obstacles that force us to change directions and ways of going forward.
What follows are 10 thoughts on social change lawyering. They are questions and criteria we can use to define and evaluate social change lawyering and to help us make sure we are following that path toward justice.
1. Where does the direction for the lawyering come from?
Commercial lawyers are very clear about this–whoever pays the bills directs the work. For social change lawyers the direction of the legal work comes from the social movement that is working to bring about institutional or systemic or radical change. This work may include advice, defense, discussion, protection, advocacy or litigation.
The point is not what the work is, but why this work is chosen and who participates in making those choices. For social change lawyers, the movement makes these decisions in consultation and in ongoing relationship with the lawyer. This is unlike other types of public interest lawyering or law reform or impact litigation where the goal is often set by the lawyers themselves or the institution where they work.
2. Where does the power go?
Is the purpose of your legal work to redistribute unjust power relationships and diminish the power of the unjustly powerful and transfer that power to the unjustly disempowered? Is the legal work going to empower organizations of people on the margins working for change? Or is this about the lawyer and choices about what is important made by the lawyer?
There is nothing at all wrong with public interest lawyers achieving personal satisfaction in their work. But that is not the primary goal of social change lawyering. The primary goal of social change lawyering is to challenge the injustices identified by social movements working to dismantle unjust structures and to shift power to the people of the movement so they can bring about change. [FN4]
3. Who gets the glory?
If the legal work or the publicity or the fundraising is about the lawyers or their legal organization, then it is not likely empowering social justice movements. If the lawyer is the media face of the work rather than the clients and the movement, then it is not too likely really in service of the movements–unless that is what the movement decides is right for the occasion. [FN5]
4. Is there an ongoing commitment to work with groups of the most impoverished and the most marginalized people?
The focus of the work must remain on these groups and their efforts to overturn the root causes of the unjust status quo. [FN6]
5. Is human rights advocacy an essential part of the work?
Human rights advocacy, though still in its infancy compared to constitutional and civil rights work, offers tremendous upside for social justice. [FN7] It is people-based, offers a radical critique to most current law, and illustrates the gap between law and justice.
6. Is the legal work just one part of the overall social change movement?
Is the lawyer part of a team in the movement working in partnership with other strategies for social change? An organizer friend of mine likes to talk about the legal component of social change as one finger on the hand–or 20 percent of the effort. Other fingers can include education, outreach, communications, and continual organizing to build the group and to expand the number of people involved. [FN8]
If the legal work is the primary part of the campaign, it is unlikely that the legal component is in relationship with a real social change movement. The civil rights era provides cautionary examples here with examples of many different types of lawyering, from the lawyer-led litigation method of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to the grassroots lawyers who specifically rejected lawyers as leaders of the movement. [FN9]
7. What work is the lawyer actually doing?
Social change movements depend on face to face and group meetings and outreach and planning and evaluating actions. Is the lawyer spending time on the ground, going out, meeting with movement partners, participating in group meetings and actions? Or is the lawyer an office advocate whose primary relationship is with the computer and law?
This is a tough challenge. Litigation, once started, tends to create its own internal life, a very demanding life of memos and briefs and legal conferences and research and writing and emails that can quickly take over. All that is important, and it is important to do it well. However, the lawyer and the social change organization she is in relationship with need to work together to maintain that relationship
All relationships demand time. An honest examination of how the lawyer spends her time will indicate whether the lawyer is working with and for a social movement or is some other type of lawyer. No matter how demanding litigation is, social change lawyers have to create room to work and be in relationship with the people and the movement that they are taking direction from.
8. Is the lawyer willing to be uncomfortable on some sort of regular basis?
Legal education does not train anyone to be a social change lawyer–quite the opposite. Social change lawyering forces us to confront our training and our privilege and the patterns of work that sometimes constitute our definition of self. Law school culture encourages people to think of themselves not just as educated and trained but as culturally and politically and economically different from, even superior to, most other people. In order to be a social justice lawyer, people have to consciously set aside the social privilege of being a well-educated professional and rediscover their own shared humanity with the people whom our legal education would have us call clients.
This does not mean people have to stop being lawyers; it simply means to stop acting like socially privileged, specially powered individuals. Lawyers must learn that while they certainly have much to teach and to give, they also have much to learn and to receive in true social justice-based relationships. If lawyers are going to be in solidarity and service to social change movements, this is challenging but essential.
Working with groups of people involved in social change movements is often messy and chaotic compared to litigation. There is no book of rules or library of precedents about how this is done, and no judge to make people behave or move on. Social change lawyers need to have good analytical tools but also need to have big hearts and understanding and patience and a willingness to participate in experiences where it is not clear that participation will necessarily translate into traditional legal work.
Consider, for example, the instructions from the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee to incoming volunteer grassroots social justice lawyers who were arriving to help out in the civil rights struggle in the South:
The volunteer civil rights lawyer is not a leader of the civil rights movement. We are there to help the movement with legal counsel and representation, not to tell the movement what it should do. You may, if asked, suggest what the legal consequences of a course of action might be, but you may not tell them whether or not they should embark on it. They have more experiences than you in civil rights work in the South, and they are responsible for the action programs. Even if they make mistakes, they are theirs to make; your task is to defend their every constitutional and legal right as resourcefully and as committedly as you can, even if they have made a mistake. Until the time comes when they ask us to lead the movement, do not be misled by any advantage of education, worldly experience, legal knowledge, or even common sense, into thinking that your function is to tell them what they should do. The one thing that the Negro leadership in the South is rightly disinclined to accept is white people telling them any further what to do and what not to do, even well-meaning and committed white, liberal Northerners. [FN10]
9. Is the work on the margins?
If someone else is already doing the work, social change lawyers are probably needed elsewhere. Social change lawyering is a bit like leaving the main camp and going out to scout and claim some unchartered or contested territory. Working out there is social change work. If enough others come out to join in the work, it is probably time to leave that area and move to another contested area where social change organizations need a partner.
For example, the National Guestworker Alliance worked with foreign student guestworkers to organize a challenge to the State Department’s J-1 cultural visa program. The program, which turned a cultural exchange opportunity into the nation’s largest temporary worker program, was overturned when State banned a leading sponsor company from bringing any more foreign students to the United Statesfor summer jobs. Students, with help from the National Guestworker Alliance and its legal team, protested working conditions at a plant in Pennsylvania that packed Hershey’s chocolates, and they ultimately forced significant changes in the program. [FN11]
10. Is it work with people?
Work on “issues” alone is not social change lawyering and, for most people, is not sustainable. You have to be in relationships with the people you are working with and for. You have to give but also realize you have to take–you teach but you also learn. Only people offer opportunities for excitement and joy and hope and love.
Real social change work will partner us with people who live on the edge. Life at that edge seems precarious and insecure from the perspective of the traditional legal profession. But working with people at the edge is amazing because where the world sees poverty, oppression, and want–at that same place you will find people and organizations demonstrating generosity, beauty, courage, community, and solidarity in inspiring acts that will radically transform your life.
This will give you the energy to keep challenging the status quo in your work and in your personal life. This is the essence of social change lawyering– addressing the root causes of injustice by putting your legal skills at the service of social justice movements and the people in them.
A Final Word
These are just some preliminary thoughts of one person. They surely leave out many ideas and probably misstate some others. You must figure out your own way of being a social justice lawyer–but you have to do it as part of a team. There are no solo social justice actors; everyone is on a team.
Being on a team is critical because social change lawyers are swimming upstream against the current of our profession and usually the law itself. Law, as an institution and as a profession, is primarily about commerce and either maintaining the status quo or altering the current order slightly to accommodate modest change. It is uninterested in, if not hostile to, systemic social change. Any type of justice-based lawyering is therefore only a tiny bit of the profession and is actually–despite high-minded pledges to do justice and the like–profoundly countercultural to the law and legal profession.
Further, we lawyers are not educated at all about social justice change or social justice movements unless we do it outside of legal education. Lawyers, like everyone else, take pride and satisfaction in their skills and the development of their abilities. Because of our training, our profession, and our models of lawyering, social change lawyering seems to challenge the idea of being a good lawyer because it seems to take skills and ideas and work outside of our skill set.
There is a good reason why we want to continue to do what we have been doing– we are comfortable and confident in those skills and in who we are. That is fine. That might even be some beneficial type of lawyering, but it is not social change lawyering.
All of us need to work continuously to re-center ourselves to become social change lawyers. We will fail many times, and we will make lots of mistakes. But when we fall, if we are willing to get back up and keep trying along with the rest of the team, we will be on the path to social change lawyering.
[FN1]. William Quigley is Janet Mary Riley Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where he also directs the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Center.
[FN2]. See The Concise History of Woman Suffrage (Mari Jo Buhle & Paul Buhle, eds., 2005); Frances Fox Piven & Richard A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (1979); F. Arturo Rosales, Chicano: The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement (1996); Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation (The Albert Einstein Institution, 4th ed. 2010).
[FN3]. Consider the experiences of Nelson Mandela, who, as a young lawyer, worked with the South Africa freedom movement. See Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela 60-195 (1995).
[FN4]. Arthur Kinoy, a legendary social change lawyer, worked with and represented the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in its challenge to the all white Mississippi delegation to the national Democratic convention. They fought before, during, and after the convention for the rights of black voters, especially those in Mississippi. When it ended, Kinoy wrote: “As I considered the result, I felt that we as people’s lawyers, now not just a tiny band but hundreds of us all over the country, had fulfilled our responsibilities. We had found ways to use our knowledge, our skills, and our techniques for the purpose of assisting and advancing the struggle of millions of people for their fundamental rights to freedom, liberty, and equality.” Arthur Kinoy, Rights on Trial: The Odyssey of a People’s Lawyer 294 (1994)..
[FN5]. “Another problem is when the lawyer comes in and just takes over and becomes the leader and the spokesperson and it disempowers the community. The lawyer becomes the one everyone wants to talk interview and everybody wants to talk to. Then the media and the powerful don’t ever talk directly to the people any more. The community’s struggle becomes the lawyer’s struggle and not the people’s struggle…. I find it real destructive when outside people speak for the community. It is the simple folk that sustain us as people–not some lawyer or nun or hot shot organizer who comes in and does work in the community.” Community organizer Barbara Major, quoted in William Quigley, Reflections of Community Organizers: Lawyering for Empowerment of Community Organizations, 21 Ohio N. U. L. Rev. 455, 462-63 (1994).
[FN6]. Consider the excellent social justice lawyering work done at worker centers around the country. See Jennifer Gordon, American Sweatshops: Organizing workers in the global economy, Bos. Rev. (Summer 2005), http:// bostonreview.net/BR30.3/gordon.php.
[FN7]. One great example is the Vermont Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign detailed in James Haslam, Lessons From the Single Payer State, In These Times (Oct. 27, 2011), http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12122/help_wanted_lessons_ from_the_single-payer_state/.
For a wider, more detailed discussion of the opportunities and challenges of human rights advocacy internationally and domestically, see Caroline Bettinger-Lopez et al., Redefining Human Rights Lawyering Through the Lens of Critical Theory: Lessons for Pedagogy and Practice, 18 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol’y 337, 366-77 (2011).
[FN8]. Eric Mann, Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer (2011).
[FN9]. See Thomas Hilbink, The Profession, the Grassroots and the Elite: Cause Lawyering for Civil Rights and Freedom in the Direct Action Era, in Austin Sarat & Stuart Scheingold, Cause Lawyers and Social Movements 60-83 (2006).
[FN10]. Id. at 73.
[FN11]. See Julia Preston, Hershey’s Packer is Fined Over its Safety Violations, N.Y. Times (Feb. 21, 2012), http:// http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/us/hersheys-packer-fined-by-labor-department-for-safety-violations.html?_r=1&ref=juliapreston.
17 PUBILREP 204
Eight years after Katrina, nearly a hundred thousand people never got back to New Orleans, the city remains incredibly poor, jobs and income vary dramatically by race, rents are up, public transportation is down, traditional public housing is gone, life expectancy differs dramatically by race and place, and most public education has been converted into charter schools.
Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. The storm and the impact of the government responses are etched across New Orleans. A million people were displaced. Over a thousand died. Now, thanks to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC) and others, it is possible to illustrate the current situation in New Orleans. While some elected officials and chambers of commerce tout the positive aspects of the city post-Katrina, widespread pain and injustice remain.
New Orleans is still down about 86,000 people since Katrina according to the Census. Official population now is 369,250 residents. When Katrina hit it was 455,000.
Nearly half of the African American men in the city are not working according to the GNOCDC. Since 2004, the city’s job base has declined 29 percent. Fifty three percent of African American men in the New Orleans area are employed now. African American households in the metro New Orleans area earned 50 percent less than white households, compared to the national percentage of 40 percent.
Jobs continue to shift out from New Orleans to suburbs. In 2004, New Orleans provided 42% of metro or 247,000 jobs, now that number has dropped to 173,000 and the percentage has dropped to 34%.
Low paid tourism jobs, averaging a low $32,000 a year, continue to be the largest sector of work in New Orleans. But even this low average can be misleading as the hourly average for food preparation and serving jobs in the area is just over $10.00 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Median earnings for full-time male African American New Orleans workers are going down and are now at $31,018; for white male workers they are going up and are now at $60,075. Whites have experienced an 8 percent increase in middle and upper income households while African Americans have suffered a 4 percent decline. Only 5 percent of black households were in the top income class (over $102,000) while 29 percent of white households were.
About 60% of New Orleans rent, compared to the national norm of 35%. Rents in New Orleans have risen. According to GNOCDC, 54% of renters in New Orleans are now paying unaffordable rent amounts, up from 43% before Katrina.
Homelessness is down to 2400 people per night since it soared after Katrina to nearly 11,000 but it is still higher than pre-Katrina.
The last of the five big traditional public housing complexes was ordered demolished in May. About a third of the 5000 plus displaced residents have found other public housing according to National Public Radio.
Public transportation is still down from pre-Katrina levels. Pre-Katrina about 13 percent of workers used public transportation, now 7.8.
Public education has been completely changed since Katrina with almost 80 percent of students attending charters, far and away the highest percentage in the country reports the Tulane Cowen Institute.
The poverty rate in New Orleans is 29 percent, nearly double the national rate of 16 percent. However, GNOCDC reports the majority of the poor people in the metro area now reside in the suburban parishes outside New Orleans.
One third of households in New Orleans earn less than $20,000 annually. This lowest income group makes up 44 % of the African Americans in the city and 18% of the white population.
Life expectancy varies as much as 25 years inside of New Orleans, according to analysis by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. From a high of 80 years life expectancy in zipcode 70124 (Lakeview and Lakeshore which is 93% white) to a low of 54.5 in 70112 (Tulane, Gravier, Iberville, Treme which is 87% black and has 6 times the poverty of 70124), social and economic factors deeply impact health. Overall, life expectancy in New Orleans area parishes is one to six years lower than the rest of the United States.
Jail incarceration rates in New Orleans are four times higher than the national average at 912 per 100,000 reports the GNOCDC. The national rate is 236 per 100,000. This rate went up and down since Katrina and is now just about where it was when Katrina hit. About 84 percent of those incarcerated in New Orleans are African Americans. The average length of time spent waiting for trial is 69 days for African Americans and 38 days for whites. Crime in New Orleans and in the metro area surrounding the city is down from pre-Katrina levels but still remains significantly higher than national rates.
In a bewildering development, a recent poll of Republicans in Louisiana revealed that 28% thought George W. Bush was more responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina and 29% thought Barack Obama was more responsible, even though he did not take office until over three years after Katrina!
The biggest crime of all? From 1932 to 2010, the New Orleans area lost 948 square miles of coastal wetlands.