Smart Criminal Justice Reform is Key to Prosperity Tomorrow

At United Way of Southeast Louisiana, we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. That’s why we are engaged in ongoing partnership and collaboration with advocates to address criminal justice reform and strengthen community policing standards in Louisiana.

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Let that sink in. In the entire world, no other community, no nation, has imprisoned as many of its citizens as our state, at a cost of $700M annually. This presents us as a community with some considerable challenges, as well as incredible opportunities for growth, for restoration, and – believe it or not – for economic development.

Our state legislature is currently in the process of passing significant prison reform, with an anticipated 10% reduction in prison populations, and $78M in savings to our state over ten years. We applaud Governor Edwards and our other lawmakers for making this first step.

Business thrives in safe communities, yet for many companies, finding qualified candidates can be a challenge. With the highest incarceration rates, Louisiana also has a high percentage of young working age men and women who have a criminal record. According to a report from NOLA for Life, 25% of working age African-American men in our community have served time in parish or state prison. Having a “record” of any kind makes individuals ineligible for many forms of employment and creates a significant barrier to any form of employment. 

Once an individual has paid his or her debt to society, we believe that person should be welcomed back to contribute to and build up the community. We work with partners on developing recidivism reduction strategies and re-entry services, to ease the transition from prison back into the community, and then on toward employment.

That’s why we’re partnering with the Louisiana Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (LA-PRI), and support the bi-partisan Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force. This outcome of the work will be a resource for the offender and Department of Justice staff, as well as other stakeholders such as courts, the Parole Board, local jails, and community resource providers. 

We’re also proud to work with Smart on Crime, using data and proven criminal justice reforms to reduce the fiscal and social costs associated with incarceration and building collaborations with workforce development programs and experts.

We know that poverty influences crime rates – when poverty goes down, so does crime. Creating Stability Today and Prosperity Tomorrow is a priority, not only for those formerly incarcerated individuals, but for the families and children who lives have often been put on hold for months or years. Access to well-paying jobs for all members of community, including those formerly incarcerated, is essential to building stable communities today that will grow and prosper tomorrow. 

Michael Williamson
President and CEO
United Way of Southeast Louisiana 





See Also:

NOLA for Life African-American Male Unemployment Report

Smart on Crime Legislators Guide

Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force Report and Recommendations

The Importance of Being an Advocate

SMART ON CRIME (SOC) - Sentencing Reform  
UWSELA will continue to support Smart on Crime to reduce Louisiana’s incarceration rate through proven criminal justice reforms that reduce the fiscal and social costs associated with incarceration, while simultaneously increasing public safety.

UWSELA will continue to support the Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition (LYJC) to reform the juvenile justice system, to ensure safety and fairness from a child’s first contact with the justice system.

UWSELA will support the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force and the release of their comprehensive plan for safely reducing the state’s highest-in-the-nation imprisonment rate. If adopted into law, the task force recommendations would reduce the state’s prison population by 13 percent over the next decade, reduce the number of people supervised in the community by 16 percent, and save taxpayers $305 million.