A new set of suggestions to change Louisiana’s prison and sentencing laws could save taxpayers $305 million over the next 10 years and reduce the state’s prison population by 13 percent, about 4,800 inmates, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The ideas are included in a draft report compiled by the staff of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ advisory task force on reducing the state’s incarceration rate, the highest in the world. The task force plans to vote March 16 on the recommendations. Its report may form the basis of an Edwards legislative package for the legislature’s session staring April 10.
If all of the proposals were implemented, Louisiana’s prison population, now 35,682, would drop to 31,724 by 2027. The number of people under community supervision, such as parole and probation, would drop by 16 percent, or 11,421. The changes would save Louisiana $9 million in the fiscal year starting July 1. Driving Edwards’ effort, in part, is a realization that Louisiana has a higher incarceration rate than other Southern states with similar crime rates. Louisiana locks up non-violent offenders at three times the rate of Florida and twice that of South Carolina. State Sen. Danny Martiny said Louisiana might be the incarceration capital of the world because the legislature tends to react impulsively to specific cases and crimes and create laws as a result. If a particularly horrible crime happens, lawmaker look to adjust the law to address the public’s concern about a single individual or family, without considering the bigger picture. “It’s easy to put somebody in jail as long as you don’t worry who is going to pay for it,” Martiny said.