Louisiana's State Score

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A State Survey of

Justice Reforms in Louisiana

Grading Justice Louisiana is a project by Smart on Crime Louisiana, the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, and Empower Mississippi to create a roadmap for consensus smart justice policies.

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As the American criminal justice system grew between 1990-2010, the prison population exploded along with the financial price tag for the average taxpayer. Paradoxically, America became the country with the world’s highest rate of incarceration beating out brutal global regimes for the infamous title of worlds most jailed population. Even more troubling, Louisiana often ranks near with the highest rate of incarceration within United States. Even though there were more people in prison, American communities were only marginally safer and countless people had lost their pathway to a prosperous life.

Over the last several years, policymakers around country, including Louisiana, have looked for a smart on crime approach focused on improving criminal justice outcomes to make our communities safer while helping those that have entered the justice system integrate back into work and life after prison. This approach is aimed at decreasing recidivism, reducing incarceration rates, improving public safety and saving tax dollars while creating a more efficient and fairer criminal justice system.

The purpose of this analysis is to measure and track development of these reform efforts and lay out a vision for further improvement. Although Louisiana has enacted numerous reforms over several years, the changes must be measured against the scale of the problem. Grading Justice provides a comprehensive overview of Louisiana’s criminal justice system, from the moment a law enforcement officer encounters an individual on the street to the time that individual is looking for a job years after they’ve left the system.  This review contrasts the current status quo with data backed policies that will ensure public safety and pathways to opportunity for those coming out of the justice system.

Grading Justice is divided into three sections, ordered chronologically according to an individual’s journey through the criminal justice system: Pretrial, Sentencing, and Reentry. Each section examines the most important policy issues within that stage of the process. Along with a brief overview of the issue, this review includes evidence-based policies and best practices identified from other states that have seen improvements in public safety and criminal justice outcomes. The state of Louisiana’s policies in this area are then described and scored based on how closely they mirror the best practices in this area.

Issue Areas



Louisiana has a limited Good Samaritan law and some Diversion Programs. Its laws related to Pretrial Detention, Body-Worn Cameras, and Civil Asset Forfeiture contribute to its lower Pretrial grade.

160/500 points



Louisiana has a statewide system of Problem Solving Courts, and recent reforms improved the state's Parole and Earned Time Provisions. The state could improve its score by eliminating Mandatory Minimum Sentences, addressing Overcriminalization, and improving Public Defense.

310/500 points



Recent reforms have improved Community Supervision and protected the Right to Earn a Living in Louisiana. The state's laws related to Freedom to Drive lag behind other states, and Fines and Fees still pose significant barriers to reentry, despite recent improvements. The state could also improve its Reentry policies by updating its Expungement policies.


Updated October 2022

290/500 points