New Orleans Changes Course on Incarceration Ten Years After Katrina, New Report Says

NEW ORLEANS – As documented in the first of a series of reports on post-Hurricane Katrina changes in New Orleans, the city’s government and community leaders have seized the opportunity that emerged from the extensive damage done to local detention facilities by the levee failures to reshape local incarceration practices.

The report, Changing Course on Incarceration, is part of The Data Center’s upcoming New Orleans Index at Ten Collection and examines the changes made to a criminal justice system that, before Katrina, incarcerated more people in its local jail than any other city in the country—by far. In the 10 years since Katrina, however, local leaders have conducted a wholesale re-examination of the city’s incarceration practices in an attempt to build a criminal justice system capable of delivering just and fair results that are also more fiscally responsible. 

Co-authors Jon Wool and Mathilde Laisne of the Vera Institute of Justice’s New Orleans office and retired Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Calvin Johnson note that the city has committed to building a local jail of no more than 1,438 beds. Before the storm, the city’s average daily jail population was more than 6,000. 

“Although fundamental and sustainable change will depend largely on a greater investment in the housing, education, and health systems on which so many New Orleanians rely, the city has taken great strides in reducing its jail population and setting us all on a better course,” Wool said.

About The New Orleans Index at Ten Collection

The New Orleans Index series, published since shortly after Katrina, has proven to be a widely used and cited publication. The Index’s value as a regularly updated, one-stop shop of metrics made it the go-to resource for national and local media, decision makers across all levels of government, and leaders in the private and nonprofit sectors. The aim of The New Orleans Index at Ten collection is to advance discussion and action among residents and leaders in greater New Orleans and maximize opportunities to form a common understanding of our progress and possible future.  

The New Orleans Index at Ten collection will include reports from The Data Center, the Brookings Institution, and more than a dozen local scholars. Reports contributed by leading local scholars and the Brookings Institution systematically document major post-Katrina reforms, and hold up new policy opportunities. These reports will be released throughout June and July of 2015.

The New Orleans Index at Ten: Measuring Progress toward Prosperity from The Data Center will analyze more than 30 indicators to track the region’s progress on economic, inclusive, and sustainable growth. “Measuring Progress” will be released on July 31, 2015.

About The Data Center

The Data Center became the local authority for tracking post-Katrina recovery with The New Orleans Index, developed in partnership with the Brookings Institution. The Data Center is the most trusted resource for data about greater New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana. Since 1997, The Data Center has been an objective partner in bringing reliable, thoroughly researched data to conversations about building a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable region.  

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