Louisiana, a state with the world’s highest incarceration rate, could shed 13 percent of its prison population and save $150 million in the process over the next 10 years, leaders of a criminal justice task force are announcing today, reports The Advocate. Reducing the prison population would require massive structural reforms — some of which have already proven to be controversial — which will include overhauling sentencing, expanding probation and parole eligibility, revising drug penalties, and easing some of the financial burdens on convicts.
The recommendations were released today after a year of meetings by the Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which was tasked with reducing the prison population and recidivism in Louisiana. The recommendations are expected to be introduced as a package of criminal justice reform legislation this spring. (A preliminary version of the proposal was reported last week by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.) Louisiana has the highest per-capita prison population in the U.S., calculated in 2015 to be 816 people for every 100,000 residents — a number that’s double the national average. The task force found Louisiana locks up more nonviolent criminals than most states. The panel also found that sentence lengths were getting longer for nonviolent offenders between 2010 and 2015, and that the Parole Board was reviewing almost half as many cases as it did in 2015 than it did 10 years prior.