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Louisiana

Total Correctional Population: 111,000

Number on Parole or Probation: 71,000

Number in Local Jail or Prison: 45,400

Incarceration Rate per 100,000 Residents: 970

Incarceration Rate Rank: 2nd

Corrections Share of 2018 General Fund Expenditures: 8.0%

Sources: 

“Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

"2018 State Expenditure Report," National Association of State Budget Officers 

 

recently enacted reforms

2018

House Bill 558: requires correctional facilities to provide certain healthcare products for incarcerated females; prohibits male correctional facility employees from conducting pat-downs or searches on female inmates unless certain circumstances are present.

2017:

House Bill 116: Streamlines registration for victim notification and allows victims to request certain measures for their individual safety as a condition of an offender’s release.

House Bill 681: Lifts Louisiana’s ban on SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TANF benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) for individuals with drug convictions.

House Bill 249: directs courts to waive financial obligations or create a single payment plan with monthly payments of one day’s pay for those facing financial hardship; incentivizes consistent payments with a debt forgiveness reward; restricts the use of incarceration and driver’s license suspension as penalties only for cases involving willful failure to pay as opposed to inability to pay; limits the extension of a person’s probation supervision term to a single six-month extension.

House Bill 680: Suspends child support payments for people who have been incarcerated for more than six months unless the person has the means to pay or is imprisoned for specified offenses; allows courts to extend child support payments beyond the termination date.

House Bill 489: Directs the DOC in conjunction with the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement to collect data on the outcomes of the Justice Reinvestment reform package and report it annually; requires savings to be reinvested into certain programs.

House Bill 519: Streamlines the process by which individuals with criminal convictions can apply for and receive occupational licenses.

Senate Bill 16: Ensures that most individuals sentenced to life as juveniles receive an opportunity for parole consideration after serving a minimum of 25 years in prison.

Senate Bill 139: expands eligibility for the substance abuse probation program and drug courts; expands eligibility for alternatives to incarceration and early release; streamlines parole release process for nonviolent offenders; implements incentives in custody and on supervision to encourage positive behavior; implements evidence-based practices for probation and parole supervision.

Senate Bill 220: Restructures drug offenses sentencing by weight of the drugs involved; raises felony theft threshold to $1,000; removes less serious crimes from the violent crimes list; modifies penalties for certain nonviolent offenses; creates the Louisiana Felony Class System Task Force.

Senate Bill 221: Lowers mandatory minimum sentences for second and third offenses under habitual offender statute; differentiates cleansing periods based upon whether prior offense was violent or nonviolent; allows judges to impose sentences outside the provisions of the habitual offender statute if he or she determines the required sentence constitutionally excessive.

2016:

House Bill 7: Allows individuals to have records expunged in cases of factual innocence; expands expungement eligibility to those who have committed certain crimes of violence after a 10-year cleansing period.

House Bill 145: Provides for the issuance of a certificate of employability by a reentry division of court under certain circumstances.

House Bill 146: Provides a limitation of liability for certain persons mentoring an offender on probation.

House Bill 266: Prohibits certain questions regarding criminal history during the employment process for certain state positions.

House Bill 347 and House Bill 548: Authorizes the creation of additional re-entry courts in certain districts. 

House Bill 1022: provides conditions and procedures for suspending an individual’s sentence upon completion of the Offender Rehabilitation and Workforce Development Program.

House Bill 1052: Creates the Swift and Certain Probation Pilot Program.

 

News

April 19, 2019

“Criminal justice reform is proof of the good that can happen when we come together and put people over politics.”

New polling from Louisiana State University shows growing support for criminal justice reform, particularly among Republicans and Independents. The results reveal that 70% of those surveyed approve of the state’s justice reforms, up from 61% in 2018. Support increased by 14 points for Republicans and by 12 points for Independents. The poll results point to continuing concerns among Louisianans—only 32% believe the current system is fair, or that it keeps communities safe. “Criminal justice reform is working in our state just as it has in other Southern state,” Governor John Bel Edwards noted in a response to the poll results, “and we have every reason to believe that the improvements will continue.” 

March 29, 2019

“This is a perfect opportunity for our partners and stakeholders to come to the table with us, and look at ways of streamlining and improving our system of releasing eligible state offenders in a timely manner.”

The Louisiana Department of Corrections has put forward a proposal to bring the DOC, county clerks and sheriffs together to ensure that people are not held in jails and prisons past their official release dates. The proposal comes after a NOLA.com and Times-Picayune investigation found that hundreds and possibly thousands of people had been incarcerated longer than their sentences required.  In a review of 200 cases in which people were eligible for immediate release, the DOC found they had to wait an average of 49 additional days beyond their official release date, at an annual taxpayer expense of $2.8 million.

January 11, 2019

“But what we’re seeing in these situations is that not only are the poor in the United States treated differently than people with means, but that the courts are actually aggravating and perpetuating poverty.”

Corinth, Mississippi is the subject of a New York Times investigation into the cycle of debt and incarceration, and the ways fines and fees are used to finance the justice system. Prior to a settlement last fall, defendants who were unable to pay fines and fees could reduce their debt by $25 for each day they spent in the Alcorn County Jail. The settlement grants additional time for people to pay fines and fees, and does not allow imprisonment for people who are unable to pay. The problem is not limited to Mississippi, or to criminal infractions—Oregon courts have issued significant fines to parents whose children are truant, and Louisiana’s pretrial diversion laws allow people with traffic offenses to pay quickly and avoid a record, while those who cannot pay may end up with additional court fees.

January 4, 2019

“We started actively cooperating in the community post-release to get them engaged; that had a significant effect.” 

Thanks to a nearly $750,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department, Louisiana’s New Beginnings program will return after a two-year hiatus. In its previous run, the New Beginnings program worked with 400 incarcerated people with co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders to provide peer mentorship, increase support from probation and parole officers, and connect individuals with local service providers. Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc was optimistic that the program could be funded in the future with savings from the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiatives.

December 21, 2018

“The path to sobriety and stability is often crooked, and case managers have to be willing to follow its many turns.”

In New Orleans, officials with the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)program work to divert people who are frequently arrested to social workers instead of jail. The program currently has 20 enrollees who receive assistance in finding housing, health care and food stamps. Only misdemeanor offenses are eligible, individuals who are physically combative with officers cannot enroll in the program, and a victim can insist on charges even if officials recommend diversion. The model program in Seattle costs an average of $10,787 per year, but researchers found costs were partially offset by fewer jail stays and court appearances. The Vera Institute, which began working with the city to design the program in 2015, will collect statistics to evaluate the program’s results in New Orleans.

November 20, 2018

“Sentencing is something that is an exclusive parameter of the judges…That is, in my opinion, the most important thing that judges do.”

Prosecutors in Orleans Parish invoked the state’s habitual offender statute in 6% of cases this year in which defendants were eligible, down from 13% in 2017. Those sentenced under the habitual offender statute are subject to mandatory minimum sentences without the possibility of parole or early release. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro attributed part of the decrease to the Justice Reinvestment Package passed in 2017, which shortened the time limit for past crimes to be considered for habitual offender status.  According to the Department of Corrections, nearly 75% of those sentenced under the habitual offender law in 2015 were convicted of drug or property crimes, not violent crimes.

November 9, 2018

“We have shown the nation that the people they are used to seeing fight against each other will come together for the common cause of freedom. That we will fight side by side for the liberty of our neighbors.”

Louisiana voters approved an amendment to require unanimous jury verdicts for felony convictions, with an overwhelming 64-36 margin. The amendment was supported by a broad bipartisan coalition, including both the Democratic and Republican state parties, the NAACP of Louisiana, the Louisiana Family Forum, and District Attorneys from Baton Rouge, Caddo Parish, Lafayette and Jefferson Parish. The measure will take effect on January 1, 2019, leaving Oregon as the only state that still allows non-unanimous felony convictions.

November 2, 2018

“You’re seeing these people who have had a long history of not being able to complete probation have a successful recovery.”

In Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish, the behavioral health court provides support and alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness who are on probation. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that nearly 2 million people with mental illness enter U.S. jails each year. In the 18-month program, officials praise and reward compliance with conditions of release, and help individuals get to appointments and stay on prescribed medication. District Judge Peter Garcia, pushes for treatment rather than court sanctions, and says he’s “there to look out for families and individuals with mental illness…and give suggestions and viable options.”

October 26, 2018

“We are beginning to see what success looks like with criminal justice reform. I’m proud of what we have accomplished but acknowledge there’s a long way to go.”

Officials in Louisiana have begun the justice reinvestment promised as part of 2017’s criminal justice reform package. The state has saved $12.2 million and announced plans to spend $8.54 million in the five parishes—Orleans, Jefferson, Caddo, East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany—that have the highest number of people in prison. Nearly half of the reinvestment funds will go to local corrections programming focused on getting incarcerated people closer to their homes and families. In addition to investments in local corrections, reentry support programs, and drug courts, $1.7 million will be spent on victim services.

August 24, 2018

“…We should unite around the opportunity, clarify the facts and bring logic and analysis to assessing success or failure. It is vital that the public keep everyone accountable to the truth.”

Daniel Erspamer, of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, and James Lapeyre, Jr., of Smart on Crime Louisiana, fact-checked Senator John Kennedy’s criticism of Louisiana’s recent criminal justice reforms. Kennedy’s letter overstated re-arrest and recidivism rates for people who received a recalculated “good time” credit, and mischaracterized the process by which this process was carried out. Erspamer and Lapeyre said it was too early to draw conclusions about the reforms’ effects, but noted that the results so far are extremely promising, and that states implementing similar reforms had seen reductions in crime and recidivism.

August 17, 2018

“These governors are invading the federal reform effort, seeking to finally connect Beltway leaders to what is happening in their own backyards.”

Senators are finalizing a federal prison and sentencing reform bill, likely to be introduced in the coming weeks. The reforms are modeled on those implemented at the state level, which have safely cut incarceration rates, improved reentry programs, and lowered crime and recidivism. In USA Today, Governors Ralph Northam (D-VA), Mary Fallin (R-OK), John Bel Edwards, (D-LA) and Matt Bevin (R-KY) encouraged Congress to follow their lead, and pass reforms that promote rehabilitation and workforce participation.

August 10, 2018

“We’ve seen firsthand how this changes lives, how it gives people second chances, how it puts communities back together, and keeps families together.”

As part of a renewed push for federal justice reform, President Trump met with a bipartisan group of governors this week to talk about state-level successes. In remarks before their closed-door session, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal noted that the recidivism rate for people in prison who learned a blue-collar job skill dropped by 24%, and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant credited his state’s reforms for saving $40 million since 2014. Following the meeting, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards invited the President to tour the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and see vocational, victim-reconciliation and faith-based programs in action.

August 10, 2018

“This ruling ensures that people can no longer be thrown in jail in New Orleans Parish for their poverty alone.”  

In New Orleans, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ruled that the 14th Amendment prohibits jailing defendants for nonpayment of court-ordered fines and fees without providing a neutral forum for determining their ability to pay. In addition, Judge Vance ruled that the use of fees collected by the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court for judges’ benefits and salaries created an impermissible conflict of interest. Her order granted class-action status to anyone who owes court-issued fines in the Parish now or in the future.

August 10, 2018

“One of the things that’s really important to us in terms of hospice is ensuring that we are allowing the patient to die with dignity.”

As America’s prison population grows older, facilities around the country are forced to look for models in end-of-life care and many are looking to Angola. Their innovative volunteer hospice program is housed in rooms formerly used for solitary confinement, now outfitted with air conditioning, televisions and private bathrooms. Patients are cared for by their fellow inmates, who receive more than 40 hours of training in the physical and psychological needs of hospice care.  More than 80 programs are modeled on Angola’s, and California and Nevada have used a volunteer model for additional non-hospice medical programs.

July 20, 2018

“The reality of witness identification is that it is one of the least-reliable pieces of evidence, and yet we put great weight on it.”

In 25 states, including Louisiana, Ohio, Michigan, and New York, law enforcement agencies have implemented policies intended to improve police lineups. Reforms enacted this year require Louisiana police officers to conduct “double-blind’ lineups, in which the officer conducting the lineup doesn’t know who the suspect is. The National Registry of Exonerations found that mistaken identifications were a factor in 29% of 2,245 exonerations since 1989.

June 29, 2018

“We are beginning to see the fruits of our labor. It isn’t easy, but it’s sure worth it.”
 
Officials in Louisiana announced this week that the state has seen significant decreases in prison population, prison admissions, and parole and probation caseloads. The number of people imprisoned for nonviolent crimes has decreased by 20%, and the number sent to prison for drug possession decreased by 42%. Governor John Bel Edwards and Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc also reported that the reforms have saved $14 million, more than twice the predicted $6 million.

June 8, 2018

“Amid all the algebra and essay-writing, this is ultimately the core curriculum at Travis Hill: demonstrating that it is a real school, and its hope is real hope.”
 
New Orleans is one of only three cities in the U.S. whose jail has a full-day high school offering real credits. Travis Hill High School is housed in the Orleans Parish jail, and offers classes in math, science, social studies, English and art with a chance to earn a diploma, rather than a G.E.D. The profile of the school, a joint multimedia production from The Marshall Project and This American Life, will be broadcast on public radio stations this weekend.

May 18, 2018

“In 2017, the U.S. prison population dropped below 1.5 million people for the first time since 2004.”

A new report from the Vera Institute showed that the U.S. prison population fell by 19,400 in 2017, continuing an eight-year trend of similar declines. Between 2016 and 2017, Maryland and Louisiana saw the largest single year decreases in their prison populations in a decade. Both states passed Justice Reinvestment Initiatives that reduced sentences and reformed parole and probation policies.  Twenty states, including Tennessee, Utah and Kentucky saw increases in their prison population over the same time period.

April 27, 2018

“As leaders, we all have a role to play in the overuse of detention and now is the time for us to take responsibility for reversing the trend.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced this week that the city’s jail population has reached its lowest level in nearly 40 years. In early 2005, the Orleans Parish jail complex held about 6500 inmates; by December 2017 the population had dropped to 1427. As part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, the city developed a plan to further decrease the jail population through diversion programs, pretrial risk assessments, and improved procedures to reduce extended jail stays.

April 13, 2018

“I cried a lot of times in prison silently because you can’t do it out loud in a treacherous place like that. But I always said, ‘one day it’s gonna get better.’”

After serving seven years in prison for the possession of three grams of marijuana, Bernard Noble was released this week. Noble’s case brought attention to Louisiana’s extraordinarily tough drug laws and sentencing practices, and helped drive the campaign to reform marijuana possession sentencing and reform the state’s administrative rules on clemency.

March 2, 2018

“The most incarcerated state changes course.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ brief on Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment package provides a roadmap for other states working on comprehensive justice reform. The report gives background information on the need for reform, factors that contributed to Louisiana’s extraordinarily high imprisonment rate, and the bipartisan task force which developed recommendations and sponsored reforms.  It also explains how the legislative package addressed four primary objectives: prioritizing prison space for those who pose a public safety threat, strengthening community supervision, eliminating barriers to reentry, and reinvesting prison savings to reduce recidivism and support victims. 

February 23, 2018

“He’s done an incredibly long sentence for two joints of marijuana.”

Bernard Noble, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for possession of two joint’s worth of marijuana, has been approved for parole in Louisiana after serving seven years. His case had become a rallying cry for proponents of sentencing reform, and his release comes amid implementation of the criminal justice reforms passed by the legislature last year.

December 22, 2017

“A minor criminal offense should not lead to a lifetime of punishment”

In New Jersey, Governor Christie signed three bills intended to help with reentry—expanding existing ban the box legislation, reducing waiting time periods for expungement, and making more crimes eligible for expungement. In New Orleans, The First 72+—an organization designed and run by men who have been incarcerated—eases reentry with housing, meals, clothes, transportation, job resources and legal services, 

November 17, 2017

Justice reinvestment has support from law enforcement

Jake Lilly, from Law Enforcement Action Partnership shows how justice reinvestment has worked in Georgia and Texas, and will work in Louisiana.