New Orleans, LA

Summary

The Orleans Parish Prison population has declined from more than 6,500 inmates pre-Hurricane Katrina to fewer than 1,500 inmates today as a result of reforms implemented in recent years. The main strategies responsible for this decline include pretrial risk assessment and supervision, fast tracking low-level offenders at the jail, diversion of alleged probation and parole violators from detention, police issuing summons in lieu of arrest, and other initiatives.

In order to reduce the jail population safely, the City of New Orleans Mayor’s Office developed a strategic plan centered on smart decision-making in booking the right people and detaining them for the right amount of time. The plan includes a mix of innovative and common-sense solutions that focus arrest and release decisions on risk rather than financial ability, while simultaneously creating more opportunities for individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse to be deflected to community-based programs. In order to address systemic racial and ethnic disparities in its system, the city will create tracking and accountability mechanisms focused on this issue.  Additionally, as part of the implementation plan, defense advocacy for felony pretrial arrestees will be increased and interagency coordination will be improved.

In April 2016, the Mayor’s Office was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Safety and Justice Challenge to implement the initiatives in their strategic plan to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.

  • Among the top ten most incarcerated urban jurisdictions in the nation
  • More than four out of five jail inmates are awaiting trial, and last year, 51% of all low risk and low-moderate risk defendants remained detained beyond three days, spending an average of 79 days in jail
  • Blacks are arrested for felony offenses 2.5 times more frequently than Whites, resulting in a jail population that is 86% Black compared to 60% of the city’s population
  • Developing a system of alternatives for police to respond to people in crisis outside of the local justice system by directing them to community-based programs for treatment
  • Strengthening pretrial release efforts through increased risk-based decision making to help prevent defendants who are in jail due to the inability to pay
  • Creating tracking and accountability mechanisms focused on racial and ethnic disparities, and continuing to engage the community in developing solutions

In addition to $1.5 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, the city will be investing $3.2 million over the next three years to reduce the average daily jail population by 27%

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