For years, Louisiana has held the distinction of being the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Thanks to a bipartisan criminal justice reform package just signed into law, that may soon change.
Lousiana’s “Justice Reinvestment” laws will streamline penalties, reduce mandatory minimums, overhaul drug punishments and shorten sentences for nonviolent offenders. The laws will also limit the circumstances in which a juvenile can receive a sentence of life without parole and allow some prisoners to be eligible for parole sooner.
In addition to sentencing reform, the laws will also make prison alternatives like drug court more widely available while expanding safety nets for prisoners returning to their communities— ensuring that past offenders can receive the help they need to be productive and valuable members of society.
In total, the Pew Charitable Trust has estimated the implementation of the laws will reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next decade. It’s also estimated that these reforms will save taxpayers more than $78 million.
Criminal justice reform like this has done wonders in the places it’s been tried. Before neighboring Texas decided to trim sentences and reallocate funding toward rehabilitation about a decade ago, the prison population was sky-high and growing at such a rate that officials planned to build three additional prisons to meet the demand.
But since the state passed reforms, Texas has been able to close five prisons and is planning to close four more due to a substantial drop in the prison population.
Of course, criminal justice reform isn’t just about reducing the number of prisons we need. It’s about human decency and fiscal responsibility— making sure our criminal justice system is fair, does what it’s supposed to and does so efficiently.
You can sign our petition for reform of the national criminal justice system here.