Everyone in New Orleans deserves to be safe. We rely on our criminal justice agencies—the police, the courts, and the jail—to ensure public safety, so we should ask ourselves regularly: how well is our system working? By looking at who we hold in our jail and why, we can begin to understand the role of detention in keeping our community safe and inform what our jail needs are, both now and going forward.
Until recently, New Orleans led the nation in jail incarceration: before Katrina, we jailed people at a rate five times the national average. The consequences were dramatic for the tens of thousands of people booked into the jail each year who lost their jobs, homes, and even custody of their children. Instead of making us the safest city in America, this over-use of detention destabilized communities.
How are we using detention today? Generally, people are held in jail for any number of reasons. Therefore, unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question of "who is in our jail?" This report aims to advance an important public conversation about how we are using our jail and how it impacts safety in our city.