ACLU of Louisiana Statement in Response to MCC Report on Orleans Parish Jail Size

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
August 27, 2014 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Louisiana
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NEW ORLEANS — Today the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission has released a report advocating for building a larger Orleans Parish jail, recommending a final capacity of 2,500 beds. The ACLU of Louisiana is strongly opposed to such an increase, and remains in support of the cap of 1438 beds as adopted by the New Orleans City Council.

The inmate data from the MCC report, covering the first six months of 2014, shows a population of 1679 pretrial inmates. Over 400 of those are being held for minor, nonviolent offenses such as drug possession, probation and parole violations, and traffic offenses, and could easily be released with no risk to public safety. Many of the remaining pretrial detainees are only being held because of their inability to make bail. If they had been ruled a danger to public safety, bail would not have been set in the first place.

The practice of incarcerating nonviolent offenders is wasteful and senseless. All of the evidence shows that incarcerating nonviolent offenders actually increases crime, by giving people criminal records and making it harder for them to obtain employment, and by forcing them into situations with more dangerous people. It also destabilizes families, costs taxpayer funds in incarceration and in public assistance for the families while the person is incarcerated. The jail should be reserved for people who truly pose a threat to the community, rather than nonviolent offenders or people who are simply too poor to post bail.

The MCC report data was gathered over too short a period to be of real use in making recommendations on future jail population trends. Instead of looking for ways to increase the jail size, what the parish should be doing is finding ways to reduce the jail population — as the ACLU and dozens of other advocacy groups have recommended all along.

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