In our city, before Katrina, we jailed people at a rate five times the national average. Since 1970, our jail population state-wide has increased 665%, and according to the Vera Institute of Justice Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., and once again is dubbed “the world’s prison capital.” For every 100,000 residents around 680 reside in jail according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 60% of those incarcerated are minorities.
While issues such as jail size remain valid, we believe the bigger picture is one that focuses on reducing our prison population, eliminating the disparity in who gets locked up and who doesn’t, and how we can work together to address the systemic problems surrounding prison reform.
The chronic over-use of detention has a spiraling destabilizing effect. The consequences often include the loss of jobs and housing, and children left without a parent. When released, those jailed then face the obstacle of finding gainful employment—with a criminal record on file.
Non-jailed citizens also pay a hefty price. Millions of dollars are spent annually in upkeep costs, and settlements based upon unjust verdicts—all footed by Louisiana taxpayers. The price tag swells even more with efforts to prosecute and over-incarcerate nonviolent, low-level offenses.
Put People First is calling upon leaders to overhaul our unfair cash bail system. There’s also a need for laws to minimize the time spent between getting arrested and being charged. The ACLU reports that a disproportionate number of people—mostly Black and poor—are incarcerated close to six months before their cases are settled. Most languish in jail because of their inability to post bail, the median cost of which is around $24,000. Statewide, taxpayers foot the annual bill of an estimated $290 million to keep prisoners locked up in pretrial detention. Are we making our city safer, or are we prosecuting poverty?
We believe our current justice system is broken, and that it’s unacceptable to support any leader who is a defender of the status quo. Do you have loved ones, friends, or neighbors who’ve been betrayed by a system that destroys lives and wastes our tax dollars? If so, join us today as we will hold our elected officials accountable for their action—or inaction—on this important public issue.