After decades of always taking the top spot in the nation for imprisonment rates, the state has finally seen some significant change.
Although ranked second, five years into the bipartisan criminal justice reform signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards has produced some good results. Two key takeaways from Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Reforms 2022 Annual Performance Report by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and Louisiana Commission On Law Enforcement include:
1. Declining prison population
While developing the 10 bills, significant focus went toward keeping non-serious offenders out of prison, boosting incarceration alternatives and reducing sentences for people deemed safe for community supervision. When the bills took effect, the Department of Corrections had approximately 35,500 prisoners. Five years later, the prison population has seen a 24% reduction. The annual report indicates that the decrease has a clear correlation to the reduction of convicted nonviolent offenders.
2. Declining recidivism rates
A key challenge for any prison remains fighting recidivism. Unfortunately, that requires programs and money to help non-violent offenders get the real they need, such as psychiatric or drug abuse treatment. Thanks to the reform bills, millions of dollars saved from having fewer prisoners got reinvested in programs to support victims, boost the juvenile justice system and develop initiatives to reduce recidivism and better support re-entry into the community. That reinvestment resulted in an 11% recidivism rate, which was 15% in 2016.
While the state has seen progress, it still has the highest violent crime rate in the United States.