The Orleans Parish Prison population has declined from more than 7,500 inmates pre-Hurricane Katrina to fewer than 1,600 inmates today as a result of reforms implemented in recent years. The main strategies responsible for this decline include pretrial risk assessment and supervision, fast tracking low-level offenders at the jail, diversion of alleged probation and parole violators from detention, police issuing summons in lieu of arrest, and other initiatives.
In order to reduce the jail population safely, the City of New Orleans Mayor’s Office developed a strategic plan centered on smart decision-making in booking the right people and detaining them for the right amount of time. The plan includes a mix of innovative and common-sense solutions that focus arrest and release decisions on risk rather than financial ability, while simultaneously creating more opportunities for individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse to be diverted to community-based programs. In order to address systemic racial and ethnic disparities in its system, the city will create tracking and accountability mechanisms focused on this issue. Additionally, as part of the implementation plan, defense advocacy for pretrial arrestees will be increased and interagency coordination will be improved.
In April 2016, the Mayor’s Office was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Safety and Justice Challenge to implement the initiatives in their strategic plan to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.