La. No Longer “Incarceration Capital of Nation,” Says Gov. $12 Million in Savings

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“Louisiana is no longer the incarceration capital of the nation, we have saved over $12 million which is more than double what was projected and are reinvesting those dollars into programs that are helping to reduce recidivism, improve public safety and support crime victims,” Gov. Edwards said in a July 19 press release.

“Everything we have put in place is based on data-driven policies that are successful in other southern states and are now having the same impacts in our state,” Edwards said. “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.”

The comment followed the release of the Justice Reinvestment Reforms 2019 Annual Performance Report, presented to the Legislature in June. The report listed the following:
• Reduced Prison Population: Louisiana’s total prison population has continued to decrease. It has fallen from a peak of 39,867 individuals at the end of 2012 to 32,397 individuals as of the end of 2018. As an immediate result of reduction in nonviolent offenses, Louisiana no longer has the highest imprisonment rate in the nation.
• Sentence Length Down for Nonviolent Offenses: The State has seen significant decreases in sentence length 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 (3.7%).
• Decrease in Use of Habitual Offender Enhancements: The use of Habitual Offender enhancements, which allow for increased penalties for crimes based upon the existence of previous convictions, decreased significantly (74.3%). This reduction is attributed to both prosecutorial and judicial discretion as well as legislative changes which limited the scope of its application.
• Reduction in Probation and Parole Population and Officers’ Average Caseloads: The State has seen a significant decrease in the total supervised population as well as the average caseload of Probation and Parole Officers; from 149 in 2016 to 123 by the end of 2018. The reduction is attributed to new incentives that allow people to earn time off supervision based upon compliance with supervision conditions.

The report can be found at http://gov.louisiana.gov/assets/docs/CJR/2019JRI-Performance-Annual-Report-Final.pdf.

Psychological science and practice has played an important part in the Governor’s reforms.

Dr. Susan Tucker, the 2019 recipient of the Award for Psychology in the Public Interest, has been a key figure for innovations in the state correctional system. She is Psychologist and Assistant Warden at the Bossier Sheriff’s Office.

Dr. Tucker has focused on treatment and research innovations that reduce recidivism and that are based in the fact that most inmates have a substance abuse problem and few get the right kind of treatment.
She launched the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program to offer intensive treatment, skill development, educational opportunities, and post release support and care. Her approach has achieved a significant reduction in recidivism, from an expected first year rate of 18 percent to only 3 percent.

Tucker has earned state and national recognition for these achievements, including from the Vera Institute of Justice. Dr. Tucker was also commended by Louisiana legislators for her work and the related cost savings of $15 million by earned “good time credits” through participation and successes in the psychological programs designed by Tucker.

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