Louisiana’s excessive use of supervision overloads supervision agents and makes it difficult for individuals to be appropriately supervised in the community. Additionally, the five year limit is longer than necessary for most offenses. The graduated sanction policy could be improved by emphasizing participation in rehabilitation programs over frequent drug testing to ensure those struggling with addiction don’t contribute to the state’s incarceration rates.
Appropriate use of supervision
Recent reforms in Louisiana expand access to probation as an alternative to incarceration for people facing nonviolent offenses and some violent offenses.1 Approximately 27,000 Louisianans are serving probation terms, approximately 100% of the incarcerated population.2 Louisiana’s use of probation reflects an over-reliance on community supervision, which yields diminishing returns for public safety. Probation should be used sparingly, and only where needed and justifiable. In many instances, no follow-up supervision may be required, especially for nonviolent offenses. Regularly attaching probation to the end of most sentences strains state resources and ultimately diminishes its effectiveness, making it difficult for officials to provide true supervision.
Duration and extent of supervision
Louisiana allows for probation sentences of up to five years. While any limit is positive, five years is excessive in most cases, with the majority of recidivism happening within two years of release. Further, this can be extended by courts who seek to impose further supervision beyond normal probation.3
Louisiana statute allows for courts to set supervision fees.4 A review indicates that fees can average around $71 per month.5 Hardship waivers can be granted at the discretion of the department, but there are no guidelines for how these can be used or how an individual’s means must be considered. Nonpayment cannot be used as a justification for noncompliance.
Sanction and revocation policy
Louisiana has implemented a system of graduated sanction to prevent automatic reincarceration for minor technical violations while on supervision. The state has also established community rehabilitation centers to house individuals who might otherwise be sent to prison for supervision violations.6 The policy still allows for reincarceration for failure to report and could be improved by restricting probation conditions to align with the nature of the crime committed.
1. Louisiana’s 2017 Criminal Justice Reforms, Pew Charitable Trusts, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2018/03/louisianas-2017-criminal-justice-reforms
3. CCRP 893
4. CCRP 895
5. Probation Fees, Prison Policy Initiative, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2019/04/09/probation_income/
6. CCRP 900