FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Reverse Incarceration in Louisiana: Thirteen Steps to Stop Being First in Being Last

Louisiana was recently named “Worst State” in the nation, again.  One of the reasons was the state’s 50th ranking in crime and corrections.   Being the incarceration capital of the county is obviously not helping our reputation.

Here are a dozen plus ways for Louisiana to stop jailing many more of its citizens than Iran or China.

One.  Decriminalize victimless crimes – don’t arrest people for stupid non-violent crimes in the first place.

Two.  Stop racial profiling.  African American people are two to three times as likely to be arrested as whites.  Even though marijuana use is roughly similar in all communities, Blacks are much more likely than whites to be arrested and convicted of marijuana crimes.  Overall, African Americans and Latinos are incarcerated at rates two to four times higher than their population.   Black prisoners make up 91 percent of the people sentenced to life without parole for non-violent offenses and are 23 times more likely than whites to be sentenced to life without parole for a non-violent crime.

Three.  Let people out of jail while they are waiting for trial unless they are a danger to society or a flight risk and don’t put people in jail if they are too poor to pay a fine.  As the Civil Rights Corps has documented, people held in jail awaiting trial, or sent to jail if they are too poor to pay court fines and fees lose their jobs, kids, apartments and their ability to support themselves.

Four.  Expand pre-trial diversion for non-violent offenders and keep them out of the criminal legal system as the American Bar Association suggests.

Five.  Prohibit local sheriffs from holding arrested or convicted prisoners from outside their parish, thus removing the cash incentives for keeping high numbers of people in jail.

Six. Give equal resources to public defenders and prosecutors.  Nationwide, public defense gets less than half the amount given to prosecutors.   When people get constitutional defense they usually are less likely to be convicted and if convicted receive less harsh sentences.

Seven.  Like the other 48 states, require Louisiana juries to come to unanimous decisions.   Non-unanimous juries allow many more people to be convicted and they arise from a serious racist history.

Eight.  Reform sentencing laws.  The Louisiana Pelican Institute for Public Policy called for eliminating mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses as other states have already done.  This could save the state $100 million.  Prohibit the use of habitual offender laws against non-violent offenders as suggested by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

Nine.  Offer rehabilitation programs inside every jail and allow every prisoner to participate.

Ten.  Let older prisoners out of jail, they are much less likely to commit crimes.  The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections reported there are 7,492 prisoners in Louisiana who are already over the age of 50.

Eleven.  Invest in re-entry release support programs for every person released from prison.  These programs save money, reduce the number of people returning to jail and help people become self-sufficient members of society.

Twelve.  Make it easier to expunge criminal convictions so people who made mistakes can start rebuilding their lives.

Thirteen.  Return the maximum prison sentence in Louisiana to 10 years and 6 months if the prisoner maintains a good conduct record.  Louisiana has 4,860 offenders incarcerated for life, the highest rate in the nation.  Louisiana also has the highest number of prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent offenses.

Why don’t legislators take these steps?   Many say they fear voters might think they are soft on crime.  As international politician Jean-Claude Juncker said wisely “We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”

But if Louisiana would take even half of these steps, maybe we wouldn’t always be first in being last.

More articles by:

Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail