Innocent until proven guilty. You don’t have to watch many reruns of Law & Order to understand that these four words make up a fundamental pillar of our legal system. But in jails here in Louisiana and across America, this principle is turned on its head by the practice of pretrial detention. Every year, millions of people languish in jail based on the mere accusation of a crime. 

Here are five facts about pretrial detention you should know.

  1. Louisiana has the highest rate of pretrial detention in the country. Louisiana’s high rate of pretrial incarceration makes it a significant outlier. A 2015 study by the Vera Institute for Justice found that Louisiana had the highest per-capita pretrial incarceration rate in the nation. 
  2. People of color experience pretrial detention at disproportionate rates. People of color are swept into Louisiana’s criminal court system at disproportionate rates.
  3. Pretrial detention weakens public safety. Wealth-based detention allows people with financial resources to walk free with little or no scrutiny, while funneling thousands of poor, non-violent people into jail.
  4. Pretrial detention derails lives. Going to jail, even if charges are eventually dropped, can mean a lost job, lost income, eviction, and even lost child custody.
  5. Pretrial detention wastes taxpayer money. Locking people up is expensive, and taxpayers bear the burden.

Caging people who have not been convicted of a crime is a wasteful and counterproductive practice that devastates our families and communities. It’s long past time to end it.