Former Officials Say ‘Good Old Boy’ Network at Louisiana’s Department of Corrections Perpetuates Systemic Racism

When Joe Buttross was selected to fill an assistant warden position at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel a couple years ago, he had no experience working in prisons.

But he did have close connections to Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. Buttross is married to Andrea Buttross, who oversees the the agency’s educational programs and whose father — a prominent architect who made millions from DOC contracts — is married to LeBlanc’s niece.

Joe Buttross came out of Prison Enterprises, the moneymaking arm of the DOC that uses inmate labor to produce goods and provide services. Before that, he oversaw a chain of pizza restaurants in Baton Rouge.

He was named assistant warden in 2019, over 16 other applicants. The move raised eyebrows among some DOC officials and observers, in part because three of those passed over were already assistant wardens. Two of them were Black; all were deemed less qualified than Buttross.

The case exemplifies a “good old boy” system that denies Black people opportunities inside the DOC, according to a group of former high-ranking Black corrections officials. The retirees formed a committee last year to study hiring and promotions and to analyze DOC payroll data.

Among their findings: While the department is very diverse — roughly half of DOC employees are Black, compared to one in three Louisianans — African Americans remain deeply underrepresented at the highest levels of leadership.

Most Black employees hold relatively low-ranking jobs, leaving the top spots for their White counterparts, according to an analysis conducted by the committee, which has been distributed among current corrections leaders and state elected officials. The Advocate performed a similar analysis and reached the same conclusion.

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SOURCE: The Advocate, Lea Skene

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