Louisiana has the nation’s highest incarceration rate, and while historic reforms implemented as part of the 2017 Justice Reinvestment Package have begun to alleviate this crisis, more work must be done to reduce the state’s harmful reliance on incarceration.
The goal of the ACLU of Louisiana’s Smart Justice campaign is to cut the state’s incarcerated population in half and reduce racial disparities. One area that is especially overdue for reform is Louisiana’s harmful overreliance on pretrial incarceration, which destroys lives, destabilizes communities, and has a disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities.
In 2020, the ACLU of Louisiana released a first-of-its-kind report based on thousands of jail records across the state. The report showed that after a 10.3 percent increase, Louisiana’s pretrial incarceration rate is now three times the national average and the highest of any state on record since 1970. Fifty-seven percent of people in jail had been arrested for non-violent offenses and, on average, the people represented in the study had been held behind bars for 5 and a half months – without trial or conviction.
The ACLU of Louisiana is working in the Legislature and in communities across the state to restore the presumption of innocence by ensuring everyone has access to a speedy trial and no one languishes in jail unnecessarily.