For years, New Orleans jailed more people per capita than any other U.S. city.6 Although the rate of incarceration in New Orleans is declining, there is still much room for improvement in how we use our jail.

In the second quarter of 2016, over 600 people who were eventually released on probation or had their cases refused for prosecution first spent weeks in jail at great cost to them, their families, their community, and taxpayers. For those fortunate enough to have access to the resources required to post bond, it took an average of nine days to gather the funds needed to secure release. Black people were disproportionately affected by these unnecessary jail stays, as they were overrepresented among those booked in jail and then detained for lengthy periods of time.

By examining unnecessary jail stays, we identify opportunities to further reduce the jail population and highlight the disparate effects that the overuse of jail has on our communities, especially our black communities. At present, with more beds than people who use them, there is no valid reason for further expanding our jail capacity. Multiple efforts are ongoing in New Orleans to safely and sustainably reduce the use of jail and to reduce racial disparities. Through these efforts, experts have projected that the jail population not only can but will be reduced in the coming months and years.7