NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The weekend death of an inmate at Orleans Parish Prison sparked a protest Wednesday afternoon in front of the jail.
The mother of 40-year-old deceased inmate Willie Lee says she still hasn't been given an adequate explanation of what happened. Prison officials say Lee, who was being held on unauthorized entry and criminal damage charges, died of a heart attack Sunday after a fight with another inmate.
"He's not a dog, he's a human being," Margie Lee said, pointing out that no one from the jail told her that her son had died. "They gonna say he's been released and not contact me."
Margie Lee said she waited all day for her son to leave the jail, then found out later that he had died. She said the coroner never allowed her to see him.
"I'm not satisfied," she said. "I want to see him. Not hiding. Let me see my child."
Protesters say Lee is the latest example of serious problems in a prison with an inordinately high death and injury rate in spite of federal oversight.
"Recent reports say it's mayhem," said reform advocate Bill Quigley.
The protesters are asking the mayor to declare a state of emergency, which would trigger the release of non-violent offenders like Lee.
"Seventy-three people a month are going to University Hospital to be treated," said protestor Norris Henderson.
Many of the protesters have demanded prison reforms for years and say they expected by now that things would be different.
"The state is watching the city, and the feds are watching, but actual change inside it hasn't happened yet," Quigley said.
"I want justice for my dad, that's what I want," said Lee's 16-year-old daughter, Mariah Williams. "He was good to me. I love him."
The protesters say they will continue to press for more oversight and are appealing to the City Council for help. They say they've received a commitment from the council to hold a hearing on the recent violence.
There was no comment Wednesday from the Sheriff's Office.