Louisiana holds almost 40,000 prisoners behind bars, costing the state $600-700 million a year and making it the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country. Contributing to this overcrowded prison population, about 15,000 people are released from prison or jail in Louisiana each year, and almost half are rearrested within five years.
Louisiana State Legislature established The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force: a bipartisan group made up of court members, law enforcement, and community members created to study the state’s criminal justice system and recommend strategic changes for the budget. The group is charged with developing recommendations to reduce the prison population, improve public safety (such as creating pretrial diversion programs), reduce sentencing rules, and establish programs to reduce recidivism.
The largest maximum-security prison, Angola Prison Rodeo, established the Re-Entry Court program. This program allows for ex-offenders to develop skills and gain knowledge needed for employment after prison. In concordance, the community has come together to help these ex-offenders find and maintain jobs.
In 2017, Louisiana passed a 10-bill package, striving to reform the criminal justice system. Reforms in this package include:
These reforms have significantly reduced the prison population and saved $12 million dollars to be reinvested in re-entry and prison diversion programs, crime victim services, and improvements to the Department of Corrections.
In 2018, lawmakers passed measures to protect incarcerated women. These measures include providing free feminine hygiene products and toothpaste, and restricting male guards from entering where a woman is in a state of undress, and conducting pat-down searches unless completely necessary.
Just recently (2020), Louisiana passed legislation that reduces parole supervision after a certain amount of time has been served. By reducing parole supervision, this bill will significantly cut probation costs. Additionally, lawmakers passed a clean slate package to aid in the reentry process. The reforms of this package include:
Louisiana’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system have already yielded results. The 2017 reforms have significantly reduced the prison population and saved $12 million dollars to be reinvested in re-entry and prison diversion programs, crime victim services, and improvements to the Department of Corrections. According to the 2019 Justice Reinvestment Reforms Report, there has also been a decrease in nonviolent offenses and in sentence length for nonviolent offenses.
Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.