The Fiscal Crisis of Addiction to Incarceration in Louisiana
March 9, 2021
- Louisiana spends about $23,000 per incarcerated person. For older persons with medical conditions, the cost of incarceration can be far greater. In 2018, a single incarcerated individual’s pharmaceutical costs alone exceeded $3.7 million.
- 1/3 of Louisiana’s incarcerated persons are serving a sentence of 50 years or more before being eligible for parole, if ever. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2018 that nationally, “Persons sentenced for murder or non-negligent manslaughter served an average of 15 years in state prison before their initial release.”
- There were 4875 individuals serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) in 2016. That number exceeds the total LWOP population of Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee combined. More than half were under 25 when convicted and about 75 percent are black.
- Another 6346 individuals are serving sentences considered “virtual LWOP,” defined by the Sentencing Project as a sentence of greater than 50 years before parole eligibility;
- The financial cost to Louisiana taxpayers of maintaining this combined population exceeds $250 million per year.
- 12,000 citizens are held in custody on any given day due to their inability to pay fines and fees
- The financial cost to Louisiana taxpayers of this misguided, punitive approach to criminal justice is estimated to be well in excess of $200 million annually.
- Louisiana criminalizes mental illness. Estimates of the percentage of incarcerated individuals with serious, untreated mental illnesses range from 15-35%. And in Louisiana, the “likelihood of incarceration vs. hospitalization” is 4.6:1 according to the Treatment Advocacy Center
- At the “low estimate” of 15%, Louisiana spends $110 million annually on individuals who belong in a mental health facility, not a prison.
- Low level crime drives recidivism in Louisiana, whose 3-year rate of 34% far exceeds neighboring state Texas’s 21%. Sufficient investment in re-entry programs would lower this rate and the costs of the associated increase in incarcerations.