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.
Through litigation, advocacy, and public awareness, the ACLU of Louisiana works to combat mass incarceration, advance racial equity, and prioritize people over prisons.
The ACLU of Louisiana’s Smart Justice Blueprint provides a roadmap to cut the state’s incarcerated population in half and reduce racial disparities. Achieving that goal will require wide-ranging reforms, including admitting fewer people to prison, reducing time served, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, and investing in diversion and treatment programs proven to reduce recidivism and improve public health.
One area that is especially overdue for reform lies upstream of our prison system: Louisiana’s outsized reliance on pretrial incarceration. Jailing presumably innocent people—most of whom simply lack the money to pay bail—is antithetical to our most fundamental constitutional principles of individual liberty and undermines public safety. The ACLU of Louisiana’s landmark report – Justice Can’t Wait – found that Louisiana’s pretrial incarceration rate is now three times the national average and the highest of any state on record since 1970.
By fighting for reforms to pretrial detention, police practices, public defense systems, disproportionate sentencing, prosecutorial abuses of authority, and failed drug policies, the ACLU of Louisiana is working to fundamentally change the punishment bureaucracy and end mass incarceration once and for all.