Media Contact

Angela Cooper, ACLU-KY Communications Director

502-759-2171 (call/text), 

December 5, 2021


Listen to the audio of the press conference in the box below. Skip to press release to see list of organizations and speakers.


Deputy Director Amber Duke Speaking at Press Conference Regarding Death in Louisville Department of Corrections
2021_December_Press Conference Regarding Deaths in Louisville Department of Corrections

Judith Jennings Speaking at Press Conference Concerning Deaths in Louisville Department of Corrections

Photo Credits: Samuel Crankshaw / ACLU of Kentucky Foundation, Inc.



Three people have died in the custody of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) in just the past week, shining a violent light on the abhorrent conditions in the city’s jail. The conditions are dire and untenable for both incarcerated people and corrections officers. These conditions are exacerbated by a broken cash bail system and the failed war on drugs, which are both fueling overcrowding. A number of people held in LMDC are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to post bail. 
In September 2021, 15 people experienced drug overdose in LMDC’s care. In October, the ACLU of Kentucky, along with several other community groups, highlighted the deadly conditions and called on the Mayor and Metro Council to act. Leadership refused, and more people have died. 
When the government chooses to incarcerate a person, it also takes on the responsibility of caring for them. Incarceration is not a death sentence. Mayor Fischer, Louisville Metro Council, and various actors in the criminal legal system must take emergency action to correct the deplorable and inhumane conditions in the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. 


  • Speakers, in order of appearance:
    • Amber Duke, Deputy Director, ACLU of Kentucky
    • Carla Wallace, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice (LSURJ)
    • Judith Jennings, Louisville Family Justice Advocates
    • Kungu Njuguna, Policy Strategist, ACLU of Kentucky 
    • Beth Salamon, Jewish Community Relations Council 
    • Shameka Parrish-Wright, The Bail Project
  • Other organizations represented:
    • The 490 Project 
    • The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression 
    • Father Patrick Delahanty 
    • Kentucky Equal Justice Center 

WHEN: 10AM ET, Monday, December 6, 2021  

  • Join in person: 325 W. Main St., Suite 2210, Louisville, KY 40208
    • Masks are required to enter the office
  • Join via Zoom:


Updated Monday, December 6, 2021, 10:31PM ET

Following the conference, the ACLU of Kentucky's immediate next step was to meet with community partners and organizations. Together, we drafted a letter outlining specific and realistic demands for emergency actions elected prosecutors and judges can take independent of Mayor Fischer and Metro Council.

The letter was addressed to Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine, Jefferson Circuit Court Chief Judge Angela Bisig, and Jefferson District Court Chief Judge Annette Karem. It was shared with Mayor Greg Fischer and LMDC Jail Director Dwayne Clark. As of 5PM ET, Monday, December 6, the letter was signed by 19 organizations on only a couple of hours notice. We expect more to join. (If your organization would like to sign on to the letter, please email ACLU-KY Communications Director Angela Cooper at or call 502-581-9746.)


We are seeking immediate relief for the people suffering in Louisville Metro Department of Corrections and demanding the Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell immediately stop requesting bench warrants with cash bonds for anything other than alleged offenses that present a legitimate threat to community safety. We are also demanding LMDC enforce its current contract with Wellpath Medical services to support people with substance use disorder – because, as we all know, affordable and accessible treatment is part of the solution to our commonwealth’s substance use disorder crisis, not incarceration.

When the government chooses to incarcerate a person, it takes on the responsibility of caring for them. According to information from the Fraternal Order of Police, 74% of people incarcerated by LMDC are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to post bail. The broken cash bail system and the failed war on drugs are fueling deadly overcrowding, endangering both incarcerated people and corrections employees.

We wrote to Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council in October after 15 people experienced overdoses in Louisville jails in September alone. But Mayor Fischer and Metro Council failed, and people they represent are now dying in their care.

Of the three deaths this week, two were Black women, one of whom allegedly died from a drug overdose and the other allegedly from suicide. Information about the third death has not been shared, and no official or conclusive reports have been issued regarding any of the three.