Eileen Fleming / WWNO

CourtWatch NOLA  has been gathering data on the Orleans Parish criminal justice system. The group found problems that include locking up poor people for failing to pay fines, and widely varying sentences.

A nonprofit monitoring New Orleans courts says that more than 10 years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed evidence kept in a basement that flooded, evidence remains at risk. It’s recommending alternative storage be used, and other improvements inside courtrooms are needed.

Two members of families shattered in the Danziger Bridge shooting 11 years ago say they can live with seeing police officers who opened fire that day have their sentences cut by decades.  The prison terms were cut Wednesday by the same federal judge who sentenced them – and later ordered new trials for prosecutors’ misconduct. Relatives say it was more important that the officers admit what they did.

Royal Bream raises fish in a floating net in Marseille, France. This represents one type of farming technologies that could work in the Gulf.
NOAA, with permission from Giles Lemarchand.

Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened the Gulf of Mexico for fish farming, or aquaculture. Now, some fishermen and environmentalists have filed a lawsuit against NOAA.

Reuben Cain and son.
Eve Abrams / Unprisoned

The way our criminal justice system works, there’s a significant cost to just being accused of a crime. Innocent or not, one way or another, you still have to pay. Especially if you have a past.

A New Orleans expert on Constitutional law says the death over the weekend of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia leaves an enormous void in the nation’s justice system. That void may be around for a while.

Louisiana is among 29 states which filed a lawsuit against the federal government, saying new environmental regulations are too extensive and costly.

The Supreme Court took the side of the opposing states by issuing a "stay" against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mandates on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The states say those requirements are too hard to meet and will be bad for industry and jobs.

The new laws would require greatly reduced emissions by 2022.

When you enter the lobby of the Orleans Public Defender's Office, expect a bit of a wait, because receptionist Chastity Tillman will likely be busy on the phone.

"The jail calls. We get them every second," Tillman says.

Waiting for traffic court at the New Orleans Mission.
Cheryl Gerber / Unprisoned

Our ongoing series Unprisoned has been bringing you stories of how mass incarceration affects New Orleans.

Last time, we learned about New Orleans Municipal Court, the largest criminal court in Louisiana. Today, we follow Municipal Court to the New Orleans Mission — where a large number of homeless people who are facing municipal charges are being served directly.

New Orleans Municipal Court handles around 30,000-40,000 cases a year.
Cheryl Gerber / Unprisoned

Over the next several months, Unprisoned will look at how mass incarceration affects New Orleans — how people are doing time outside. We start at New Orleans Municipal Court with a vivid portrait of this front door to the criminal justice system.