Until recently, New Orleans was the longtime nationwide leader in urban jail incarceration rate, which today remains at nearly double the national average. Although the population of the city’s jail has been declining since 2009, there is still much room for improvement, including addressing the considerable and persistent racial disparities in arrest and detention.
By examining the key sub-populations of people behind bars—including charge at the time of arrest and risk level—this report aims to provide accurate and unbiased data and analysis to support local leaders in safely reducing incarceration.
Despite common practice to detain defendants even when they are assessed as “low risk”, New Orleans has more than enough beds to accommodate both its current and projected jail population. The vast majority of people in New Orleans's jail have not been tried or convicted and many are low risk.
The purpose of jail is to hold people who are too risky to await their day in court in their communities.
If people who pose little risk were released pretrial in New Orleans, thousands of days in jail could be avoided and millions of taxpayer dollars saved.
Everyone deserves to be safe; unnecessary detention does not increase public safety.
Black men in New Orleans were 50% more likely than white men—and black women 55% more likely than white women—to be arrested, according to our research.
90% of inmates in New Orleans's jail were not serving a sentence, but awaiting adjudication.
48% of people in New Orleans's jail who were assessed for risk were found to be low or low-moderate-risk. They were held in jail because a judge decided they have to pay a financial bond to get out, which they were unable to afford.
Series: Justice in Katrina's Wake
What will be different for New Orleans in the years to come?
“What is different?” That question rested on the lips of the many people—policymakers, journalists, and funders—who visited New Orleans to survey the city’s progress 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Some described the physical rebuilding of the city—stronger, better, safer—or the spirit of the people: resilient. Others challenged these depictions,...
New Orleans Pretrial Services
Vera New Orleans developed and operates the city’s first comprehensive pretrial services program. The program uses standards established by the American Bar Association and the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies to screen people detained pretrial and establish their risk to public safety or of flight. The goal is to yield greater pu...
Detention of Alleged Probation and Parole Violators in Orleans Parish Prison
Close to one in five people detained in the New Orleans jail are waiting for a court date (also known as adjudication) to resolve alleged probation or parole violations. This detention affects nearly 2,000 people a year and heavily inflates the local jail population. In this report, Vera conducted a thorough analysis of all probation and parole vio...