The New Orleans Index at Ten Collection: Criminal Justice: Changing Course on Incarceration

Report by Judge Calvin Johnson, Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool
June 17, 2015

The Data Center   (New Orleans)

Much has changed in New Orleans’ criminal justice arena in the past 10 years: two consent decrees forcing reform in the police department and at the jail, a public defender office built on national models as part of a statewide system, an Inspector General’s office with a focus on holding criminal justice officials accountable, the city’s first Independent Police Monitor, and an active Criminal Justice Committee of the City Council exploring policy reforms. The most ambitious set of changes has addressed the city’s dramatic overuse of incarceration in the local jail. Prior to Katrina, and for most of the last 10 years, New Orleans incarcerated residents in the jail at a much higher rate than any other city in the country. In a hopeful sign going forward, the city has reduced the number of people it incarcerates on any given day by more than two-thirds.