East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana

Summary

East Baton Rouge Parish is Louisiana’s largest parish, encompassing the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. The parish has a long history of working to improve the local justice system. Most recently, with support of the Challenge, the parish has focused on implementing strategies to divert pretrial, nonviolent defendants from jail. As a result, more than 40 individuals with a mental health or substance abuse challenge have been diverted to treatment programs in lieu of jail. To date, six individuals have graduated from their treatment program and had their charges dropped upon successful completion.

To build on past efforts, East Baton Rouge Parish was awarded $350,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018 to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population in the area, including practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

To continue reducing the jail population safely, the parish plans to implement strategies aimed at meeting the needs of those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues, addressing system inefficiencies and disparities, instituting non-jail options for lower-risk offenders, and more deeply engaging the community through a Justice System Change Workgroup. These strategies include deflection at arrest and booking, diverting individuals to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, and increasing efficiencies in case processing.

  • At any given time approximately 20% of those in jail have been identified as having a serious mental illness.
  • Pretrial release and length of stay are main drivers of the local jail population. The average length of stay in 2017 was 53.1 days.
  • Misuse of the jail takes an especially heavy toll on people of color. Despite making up 45.9% of the local population, African Americans and Hispanics make up 75.3% of the jail population, on average.
  • Overuse of detention causes disruption in the stability of arrestees’ families and communities; it leads to higher re-arrest rates; and produces worse case outcomes with more back-end incarceration.
  • To continue safely reducing the jail population, the parish plans to implement strategies aimed at better meeting the needs of those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues, addressing system inefficiencies and disparities, instituting non-jail options for lower-risk offenders, and more deeply engaging the community through a Justice System Change Workgroup.

Supported with $350,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge, East Baton Rouge Parish will implement forward-looking, smart solutions, to further reduce the local jail population over the next two years.

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