Louisiana has more prisoners than any other state, report says

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday released figures showing that the United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world. And Louisiana has more than any other state.

As of Dec. 31, 2007, nearly 2.3 million people were in U.S. prisons and according to state correction officials, Louisiana has 37,969 adults behind bars. That number does not include juveniles or those doing municipal time.

The ACLU says Louisiana has nearly five times as many prisoners than in Maine, the state with the lowest rate of incarceration.

ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie R. Esman said that Louisiana continues to lock up too many elderly prisoners and too many people whose biggest problem is addiction.

“We still haven’t learned that the solution for many of our problems do not lie in the jailhouse,” Esman said. “Of course people who are violent and dangerous to society need to be taken off the streets. But it doesn’t make sense to lock up those who are not a danger.”

According to figures released in June by the Louisiana Department of Corrections, 13 percent of the prison population in Louisiana is over age 50. More than 30 percent of Louisiana inmates were convicted of drug offenses.

With the current economic crisis, Esman hopes the state legislature will look into other solutions.

“Other states have proven that there are more effective ways to treat the problem of crime at lower costs,” she said.

Those include parole and probation reforms, diversion programs, increasing good-time programs for people behind bars, and sentencing reforms for nonviolent offenders, she said.

Estimates put the annual cost of incarceration at about $20,000 per prisoner, Esman said.

“That money could be used to pay for a lot of early childhood education that has been shown to have a significant effect on later problems,” she said.

source: http://www.wwltv.com/topstories/stories/wwl121108cbprison.53c90bde.html

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