Since the late 1970’s Louisiana’s prison population has grown 30 times faster than the state’s resident population. One of the primary reasons for this massive ballooning of the state’s correctional footprint has been overincarceration for nonviolent offenses. Louisiana sends people to prison for drug, property, and other non-violent felonies at twice the rate of South Carolina and three times the rate of Florida, despite having roughly the same rate of crime.
Compounding this a high rate of recidivism: 1 in 3 people released from Louisiana’s prisons return within three years. The 2017 Justice Reinvestment Task Force found that implementing alternatives to incarceration probation and drug courts were also hampered by funding and legal restrictions.
But, after a landmark bipartisan reform package, all of this could be poised to change. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards helped the state chart a course toward decarceration after his election in 2015, and in June 2017 he signed a package of 10 bills that are projected to reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next ten years. If implementation stays on track, Louisiana should fall from the number one position by the end of 2018.