Public Safety in Louisiana

This page was updated on August 14, 2018, to reflect new data.

In June 2017, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed the most comprehensive criminal justice reform in state history. Six Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent authored the bipartisan package of 10 bills. Their efforts received widespread support, earning endorsements from the state district attorneys association, business and faith leaders, and diverse coalitions of advocates and community members.

The laws are based on policy recommendations from the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, a group of criminal justice experts and key stakeholders that conducted a 10-month examination of state sentencing and corrections trends, the best research on what works to reduce recidivism, and effective criminal justice strategies from other states. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a public-private partnership between Pew and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and other organizations, provided data analysis and technical assistance to the task force. One year after enactment, the state no longer leads the nation in imprisonment.

"I am not proud of our title as the most incarcerated state. But that’s going to be part of our history rather than our future."

John Bel Edwards, Governor Louisiana

The legislation has four primary goals:

  • Prioritize prison space for those who pose a public safety threat.
  • Strengthen community supervision.
  • Eliminate barriers to successful re-entry.
  • Reinvest prison savings to reduce recidivism and support victims.

The state projects that the laws will reduce the prison and community supervision populations by 10 and 12 percent, respectively, over 10 years and avoid $262 million in prison spending. Louisiana will reinvest 70 percent of the estimated savings in local programs to reduce recidivism and in services for crime victims. These trends put Louisiana on the growing list of states demonstrating that it is possible to reduce imprisonment and crime rates at the same time.

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Louisiana No Longer Leads Nation in Imprisonment Rate

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Louisiana No Longer Leads Nation in Imprisonment Rate

Louisiana no longer leads the nation in imprisonment, one year after enacting a landmark package of 10 criminal justice reform laws. In June 2018, Oklahoma became the U.S. state with the highest imprisonment rate, replacing Louisiana, which had been the nation’s prison capital for nearly 20 years.


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Louisiana has the highest imprisonment rate in the U.S., but that may change as a result of comprehensive criminal justice reform passed this summer. Through a tremendous bipartisan effort, state leaders passed a package of bills that aims to reduce crime and incarceration through innovative, evidence-based means. That includes steering less serious offenders away from prison, strengthening alternatives to incarceration, and removing barriers to success during re-entry to society. Terry Schuster of Pew's public safety performance project speaks with host Dan LeDuc about why this change was important and what its impact could be. For more information on public safety, listen to the episode “Less Incarceration, Less Crime” to find out what two leaders in South Carolina did to slow prison growth and make communities safer.

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