Louisiana Justice Reinvestment: Improving Public Safety, Reinvesting in Evidence-Based Practices
In 2017, Louisiana passed a comprehensive justice reform package as a result of its Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) effort, which found the state had the highest imprisonment rate in the country— nearly double the national average, prior to JRI.
Since that time, Louisiana agency leaders and staff have embarked on an intensive implementation effort with support from the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI), funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). BJA is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs. CJI also assisted the Louisiana Women’s Incarceration Task Force in developing policies to improve women’s services in prison and on community supervision.
In five years, Louisiana has taken major steps to improve public safety and maximize taxpayer resources by implementing evidence-based policy changes. These efforts have resulted in a 26% decrease in the prison population since 2016 and almost $107 million reinvested in supportive services.
This brief explores Louisiana’s progress towards the legislation’s four overarching goals:
1. Focus Prison Beds on Those Who Pose a Serious Threat to Public Safety
Prior to JRI, Louisiana sent more people to prison for nonviolent offenses than southern states with similar crime rates. The state responded legislatively by steering people with less serious offenses away from prison and toward community supervision, allowing Louisiana to focus prison beds on serious threats to public safety.
2. Strengthen Community Supervision
The JRI analysis revealed that community supervision in Louisiana should better align with evidence-based practices shown to reduce recidivism and thereby improve public safety. The legislative package required changes to strengthen community supervision and allow Probation and Parole Officers to focus on supervisees at high risk for recidivism.
3. Reinvest a Substantial Portion of the Savings
To support evidence-based changes to Louisiana’s justice system, JRI legislation requires 70% of total annual savings to be reinvested in alternatives to incarceration, recidivism reduction practices, and support for victims of crime.
4. Clear Barriers to Successful Reentry
The JRI process identified a number of barriers for people reentering society from incarceration, including challenges related to finding stable housing and maintaining consistent employment. Louisiana’s legislation has shifted funding and resources towards helping justice-involved people succeed in their communities, ending cycles of incarceration, and protecting public safety.
All data cited in this report are from Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Reforms Annual Reports, available at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections website.
This brief was prepared by Amanda Coscia, Lisa Margulies, Abigail Strait, and Valerie Meade, with assistance from Molly Buchanan and Barbara Pierce.