Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Law professor named MacArthur Fellow and recepient of “genius grant”

Anna Hummel
Law professor Andrea Armstrong teaches Constitutional Law at the law school on Oct. 17, 2023. Armstrong was awarded the “Genius Grant” for her work with prison reform.

Loyola’s Dr. Norman C. Francis Distinguished Professor of Law Andrea Armstrong has been named a 2023 MacArthur Fellow and received the “Genius Grant” for her creation of the Incarceration Transparency Project.

According to the MacArthur Fellow website, this award is given to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Genius grant recipients receive $800,000 in a five-year period as an “investment in their potential.”

Recipients are nominated anonymously by leaders in their field and selected by anonymous judges based on their achievements and peer evaluations. Armstrong’s focus is on state and federal law governing incarceration and detention policies.

Armstrong’s Incarceration Transparency Project focuses on collecting and analyzing deaths of people behind bars in Louisiana. This data is then put on a website created by Armstrong, law professor Judson Mitchell, and Loyola law students for public use.

Armstrong said in a video posted by the MacArthur Fellows Program that the public doesn’t receive proper information on death in prisons and this lack of transparency affects the people who are incarcerated.

“When we think about prisons and jails, it’s really this gap between government power being at the highest it can ever be and individual rights being at the lowest. And within that gap, that is where abuse occurs. And that is why it is critically important to shine a light in those places,” Armstrong said.

According to the website for this project, the how and why a person in prison dies is often kept secret from everyone, including the person’s family.

This realization led Armstrong to create this project after looking at deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Armstrong said there were parents asking “is my son the only one to die this way?”

This brought Armstrong to recognize this wasn’t just a problem in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison but in every prison across the state of Louisiana.

“There was no one looking – no one was keeping track of who has died behind bars, from what type of causes,” Armstrong said. “If we want to prevent deaths, we need to know why people are dying and where they’re dying.”

Armstrong said she believes that transparency between the prisons and these deaths are essential and that’s what she’s doing through the project.

“It is critical that data on deaths behind bars be made public. These are our jails and prisons. They are operated in our name and they are there for our responsibility,” Andrea said.

According to the project’s website, making this information public and analyzing the data behind deaths is the first step in making conditions in jails and prisons known to the public.

In an email sent to Loyola faculty, staff, and students, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Strategy, Justin Daffron, SJ, recognized Armstrong’s achievements.

“We are tremendously grateful that she so generously shares her gifts and talents with the Loyola community and beyond,” Daffron wrote.

Armstrong continues to fight for these individuals, recognizing that they are not just what they are incarcerated for: they are people.

“People are so much more than their worst moment. They are caretakers. They are artists. They are musicians. They are brothers and siblings and uncles and aunts. And all of that goes missing when somebody dies behind bars,” Armstrong said.

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About the Contributors
Kloe Witt, News Editor
Kloe Witt currently serves as the Maroon's News Editor. Kloe is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and environmental studeis and is interested in environmental policy. In their free time, Kloe is usually watching Criminal Minds, listening to Taylor Swift, or reading new books. Kloe can be reached [email protected]
Anna Hummel, Photo Editor
Anna Hummel is excited for her position as Photo Editor. Anna is a senior mass communication major with a concentration in public relations and a minor in business analytics. She is passionate about telling stories through photos. In Anna’s free time she enjoys swimming, reading and art.

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