Part of Our Series on Mass Incarceration
By Jeff Thomas
What Louisiana’s legislators have lacked in creativity over the years, they have compensated mightily with plagiarism/copying. In fact, hundreds of recent laws enacted in Louisiana have come on the heels of successful implementation in surrounding southern states, particularly Texas. Currently, Louisiana is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to argue before the US Supreme Court in a battling over abortion rights legislation that Louisiana duplicated from Texas law. In the midst of the current fiscal crisis in the state, the state of Louisiana should focus its plagiaristic sites on laws that save millions and have no legal hullabaloo.
Frankly, given the state’s educational ranking, the fact that we copy complex laws and ideas from other states is not a bad thing. But even the most enthusiastic test cheater will not copy an answer that he thinks he already has a correct answer. You don’t know what you don’t know, so even Louisiana might be able to pass the fiscal responsibility test if only we didn’t think we already had the right answer.
During this current fiscal calamity what if we could pass legislation that would save millions and simultaneously reduce crime, which saves more millions? Shouldn’t we look over the smarter state’s shoulder and copy some proven legislation that does just that?
Notoriously Louisiana leads the WORLD in incarceration rates and even now continues to pour much needed resources into the public safety money pit with increasingly deleterious results. Crime is increasing annually. And the budget is currently $3 billion in arrears. Taxes and fees are being increased. Education and healthcare are being cut significantly. Families are destroyed. People are losing jobs.
In NOLA men, who are shut off from access to capital amidst a 52% unemployment rate, choose risky access to available cash. Sons of incarcerated men are disconnected from positive role models and few have jobs. Louisiana’s response has been to fund police and courts and prisons and send even more people to jail.
Yet Texas and Georgia and Alabama have changed course. These states have maintained prisons and long sentences for violent and dangerous criminals. But nonviolent drug offenders, even those who commit property crimes to support drug addictions have been diverted to community based programs which offer life skills and job training and opportunities. These programs not only save money but reduce recidivism. Each of these states have reduced public safety budgets by 20% and crime by 30%. That translates into billions saved. Reducing incarceration rates reduces crime!
In Louisiana this translates to safer and healthier communities, better education outcomes, intact families, and better quality of life for all of us. And nearly $2 billion in savings.
In this current financial crisis, Louisiana should immediately cut funding to public safety by 15% and divert that money to fund community based programs that provide life skills training, job training, and job placement services. And all nonviolent defendants still awaiting trial should be released from prison and have charges dropped pending completion of the new 3 month program.
That’s better than wasting close to $1 billion locking em up and throwing away the keys.