Exterior of Louisiana State Capitol building, where CJI provided technical assistance

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana is poised to shed its title as the most incarcerated state in the country.

The Crime and Justice Institute is joining officials in Louisiana to help implement major criminal justice reform legislation that’s projected to reduce the prison population by 10 percent and save $262 million over the next decade. The state will invest the bulk of those savings – an estimated $184 million – in policies and programs shown to reduce the rate at which former inmates end up back in the justice system after serving time.

The Louisiana Legislature earlier this year passed 10 reform bills with strong bipartisan majorities. The bills were based on recommendations from the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force. With assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of CJI’s partner organizations, the Task Force spent nearly a year studying the state’s corrections system and found that it was producing low public safety returns at a high cost.

Louisiana spends about $700 million per year on corrections, but one-third of former inmates are re-incarcerated within three years. The state’s incarceration rate is nearly double the national average, and includes a higher rate of non-violent offenders than neighboring states.

Realizing the need for reform, lawmakers passed legislation to focus prison resources on those who pose a serious threat to society, strengthen community supervision, and lift barriers facing men and women after they’re released from incarceration.  A summary of the reforms can be found here.

Louisiana is now in the process of implementing the reforms with support from CJI and funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. CJI will work with the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Courts, and other criminal justice agencies to

  • Develop internal policies and procedures to implement various provisions of the legislation, including setting up a system of “good time” credits for individuals on probation and expanding the state’s use of administrative sanctions to respond quickly and proportionally to supervision violations
  • Train practitioners on the legislation as well as on new skills and techniques that can help effectively reduce recidivism
  • Develop and track performance metrics to measure the impact of the legislation
  • Set up an effective mechanism for calculating and reinvesting savings in programs and projects designed to reduce recidivism and increase public safety