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Gov. Edwards releases Louisiana's Justice Reinvestment Reforms 2019 Annual Performance Report

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jul 19, 2019

Today, Governor John Bel Edwards released Louisiana's Justice Reinvestment Reforms 2019 Annual Performance Report.

The report shows that Louisiana has saved more than $12 million because of these reforms, which was twice what was projected.

"This report provides a comprehensive review of data on the historic reform efforts thus far, and the results continue to be promising," said Gov. Edwards.

"Louisiana is no longer the incarceration capital of the nation...we are reinvesting those dollars into programs that are helping to reduce recidivism, improve public safety and support crime victims. It is still early in this process and there are more lessons to learn and more challenges to meet, but we are taking significant steps toward improving our criminal justice system."

Significant takeaways of the report include:

Reduced prison population - It has fallen from a peak of 39,867 individuals at the end of 2012 to 32,397 individuals at the end of 2018.

Sentence length down for nonviolent offenses - Drug offenses have seen the largest decrease by the end of 2018 with a drop of 17%, followed by property offenses with an 8.3% decrease. The average sentence length for new felony admissions decreased from 76.6 months to 73.2 months.

Decrease in use of habitual offender enhancements - The use for habitual offender enhancements, which allow for increased penalties for crimes based on the existence of previous convictions, decreased significantly (74.3%).

Reduction in probation and parole population and officers' average caseloads - This has decreased from 149 in 2016 to 123 by the end of 2018. This reduction is attributed to new incentives that allow people to earn time off supervision based upon compliance with supervision conditions.

Prior to the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) legislation, Louisiana was leading the nation in imprisonment, with a rate nearly double the national average. The state was also sending people to prison for nonviolent offenses at 1.5 to 3 times the rate of other Southern states with similar crime rates. The policy choices that led to this situation were costing the state nearly $700 million annually on corrections. One in three inmates released from prison returned there within three years.

Following lessons learned from successful criminal justice reform efforts in other states, Louisiana developed a comprehensive, data-driven, and bipartisan plan. This was designed to steer people convicted of less serious crimes away from prison, strengthen alternatives to incarceration, reduce prison terms for those who can be safely supervised in the community, and remove barriers to successful reentry.

To read the full report, click here.