Published on February 18, 2014
Mass Incarceration Civic Academy Crime and Punishment in Louisiana Statewide Issues Conference Saturday, February 15, 2014
Louisiana - Prison Capital of the World • LA incarcerates more people per capita than any other place on the planet. • 1 in 55 Louisiana adults is in the prison system (nearly double the national avg.) • LA spends less on local inmates than any other state. • LA leads the nation in the percentage of its prisoners serving life without parole. • More than 300 people serving life without parole in LA have never been convicted of a violent crime.
The “war on drugs” and its federal incentives have boosted the drug arrests. Today there are more African-Americans under correctional control than there were slaves in 1850 (just prior to the Civil War).
• Nearly 2/3’s of LA’s prisoners are nonviolent offenders – the national avg. is less than half.
53% of LA’s inmates are in local prisons – the national avg. is 5%
Local vs. State Facility Local Jails • $24.39/day per prisoner DOC State Facilities • $55.00/day avg. • Angola – $63.15 per diem • • non-violent offenders • Do not work violent offenders/longer sentences • Every offender works • No rehabilitation • Minimal rehab offered • No resources for job training • Some job training available
LA has the harshest sentencing Laws in the United States
How Did We Get This Way? • In the early 1900’s, Louisiana was under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding. The state incentivized the building of private prisons. • Since most of the prison entrepreneurs were rural sheriffs, they began to fill up local jails with inmates. Sheriffs were given financial incentives for housing inmates and it created jobs for the locals.
Problems With This Solution • For the local prisons to make a profit, their beds must be full. Local sheriffs barter for prisoners from overcrowded jails in larger cities. • Criminal sentences must remain stiff to keep the quota of inmates in each jail.
With Mass Incarceration…… • The more often the sanction of imprisonment is employed, the less it deters. • Social factors known to contribute to criminality increase with high rates of imprisonment. • The more $$ we spend on locking up people, the less money there is to fund the things that might keep people out of jail in the first place. (rehabilitation, after-school programs, schools, recreation programs, etc)
• As more and more people are incarcerated, the general conditions of the community diminish. • For many parents in jail, the spouse becomes financially dependent on the state system. • Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to become truant, depressed, transient, and school drop-outs. • Prison becomes for some…..a rite of passage, an expected fate.
The Avg. ed. level of La Inmate = 7th grade • 15,000 inmates are released each year. • 11,000 are released from local jails. • 4,000 are released from state facilities.
Possibilities for Change…. • Provide alternatives to incarceration. • Reduce length of sentences • Treat drug addiction as a public health problem • Provide ed. programs/job skills training/ rehabilitation programs to inmates to reduce recidivism • Build PEOPLE, not prisons.
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