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How did Louisiana become the "Prison Capital of the World"? 

Louisiana locks up more of its citizens than anywhere else on the planet.

We want to change this.  

 

 

The Problem

Prison Capital of the World

Louisiana has a higher incarceration rate than any other state or nation in the world. One out of 87 adults are behind bars in Louisiana, which is more than twice the average rate of all 50 U.S. states and significantly higher than every other country in the world.  

A Broken Criminal Justice System

Despite having more prisoners per capita than any other state, Louisiana continues to have one of the highest crime rates in the country. The state's murder rate ranked 1st in the nation every single year from 1989 to 2012 - a staggering 24 years in a row.

Locking Up the Wrong People

The majority of Louisiana's inmates are nonviolent offenders who pose little or no threat to society and who are routinely sentenced to long terms in prison with no chance for parole or probation.

Locking up these nonviolent offenders hasn't made a dent in Louisiana's crime rate, but it has cost an extraordinary amount of money, devastated families and communities, and turned the "Big Easy" into the "Prison Capital of the World."

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The biggest driver of Louisiana’s over incarceration problem is the habitual offender statute.

 

 

 

The Key to Reducing Mass Incarceration in Louisiana

Louisiana’s habitual offender statute yields exorbitant and excessive sentences for non-violent and drug offenders. It takes the sentencing power away from judges, who can most fairly weigh all of the factors, and gives it to the prosecutor who uses the threat of unduly lengthy jail sentences to force plea bargains.

And it's why Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  

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About Louisianans for Responsible Reform 

We know. It's a mouthful. You can call us LRR. 

We're a bi-partisan organization working towards drug policy and sentencing reform in Louisiana. We're building a coalition of government and community leaders to pass meaningful legislation and change the way we treat nonviolent drug offenders in the criminal justice system.  

Sentencing reform is neither a liberal idea nor a conservative idea. It's a common sense solution that Louisianans support.

What we're doing:

Our multi-pronged approach to policy reform involves lobbying, organizing, and public education and advocacy. We work with community and business leaders, allied organizations, and elected and government officials to assess the need for legislative change and to advocate for those changes.  

Our goals:

  1. Reduce the use of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses,
  2. Redirect resources from excessive incarceration to more effective practices and programs,
  3. Lessen criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

Trust us, we know this won't be easy. The fight for justice reform will be an uphill battle the whole way, but we're in it for the long haul.

But we can't do it without you. Will you join our campaign? 

Our Team

Greg Thompson | Executive Director

Greg was an Assistant District Attorney in Orleans Parish from 2004-2011 where he prosecuted, among other cases, hundreds of marijuana and other drug related offenses. After leaving the DA’s office and going into private defense practice, Greg became a leading proponent for marijuana sentencing reform. He has been working directly with the Louisiana Sentencing Commission on drafting model legislation concerning this issue.

Brian Welsh | Consultant

Brian is a veteran communications and campaign strategist with experience on both candidate and issue based campaigns. Brian has led communications and messaging strategy for Congressional, Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns nationally. He has also worked and advised on national issue based campaigns for labor, income inequality and immigration groups. Since 2012, Brian has been active in reforming marijuana laws in Louisiana. 

James Hartman | Communications Director

James has served as an adviser and strategist for Republican candidates for local, state and federal offices, and for conservative candidates in the former Soviet Bloc.  Read More >>

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Want to get involved? Here's how.

 

 

 

Donate to us. 

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There's an urgent need for sentencing and drug policy reform in Louisiana.  100% of your donation will go to our efforts for reform.  

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FAQS

 

 

 

Is Louisiana really the "Prison Capital of the World?"  

Louisiana has a higher incarceration rate than any other state or nation in the world.   

Louisiana incarcerates at a rate of 873 (per 100,000 people), which is significantly higher than the national average of 716 (per 100,000).  When pre-trial detainees are counted, Louisiana's incarceration rate shoots up to a staggering 1,619 (per 100,000).  No other state or nation in the world even comes close to that number.  

One out of 87 adults are behind bars in Louisiana.

But Louisiana's inmates are mostly violent criminals, right?  

No, the majority of those incarcerated in the state are serving time for nonviolent drug and property offenses.

In 2013, only 41.5% of inmates were serving sentences for violent crimes.  Additionally, Louisiana has more prisoners serving life without parole than any other state.  

What does marijuana have to do with it? 

Louisiana has the harshest marijuana policies in the country:  

  • Possession of any amount (first offense) is a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail.

  • Possession of any amount (second offense) is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

  • Possession of any amount (third or subsequent offense) is a felony, punishably by up to 20 years in prison.

Nearly one out of 14 arrests in Louisiana are for marijuana possession.  The average sentence for marijuana possession is eight years.  

Are Louisiana's marijuana laws unusual?  

While states around the country have reformed marijuana laws, reducing possession charges to misdemeanor offenses, Louisiana remains resistant.  In 2004, Mississippi reduced all first and subsequent marijuana possession charges to a misdemeanor offense.  Almost all Southern states, including South Carolina, Texas and Georgia, have followed suit.  Louisiana stands alone in both the South and in the nation as a state that clings to the idea of marijuana possession as a felony complete with sentences typically reserved for violent crime. 

How much do current laws cost taxpayers?

Louisiana's big prisons mean big costs to the taxpayers:  

  • An inmate costs the state approximately $18,170 a year, $363,440 for a 20 year sentence, and upwards of $1 million for a life sentence.  

  • In 2012, Louisiana spent $730 million on its 40,172 inmates. 

Louisiana's correction expenditures per capita have been significantly higher than the majority of its neighboring states for over 20 years.

How would marijuana reform save taxpayers money?

In 2010, Louisiana spent $46 million enforcing marijuana possession laws.  One simple change -- reducing marijuana possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors -- would save the state approximately $23 million per year in corrections-related expenditures.  

 

Sources:  The Times-Picayune, The Reason Foundation, Bureau of Justice Statistics, International Centre for Prison Studies