Seven local chambers of commerce and business associations from around the state Friday released a Statement of Principles in support of criminal justice reforms in Louisiana. CEOs of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and One Acadiana, as well as a representative of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, delivered the signed document to the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, an inter-branch, bipartisan group of criminal justice experts tasked with safely reducing the state’s prison population, strengthening prison alternatives, and reinvesting savings into programs and services that reduce reoffending and support victims of crime.
“Louisiana has the highest imprisonment rate in the country, not exactly the ‘first in the nation’ distinction we should aspire to hold,”the local chambers said. “Perhaps surprisingly, we are not locking up more people because of higher crime rates. In fact, Louisiana’s crime rate has fallen since the mid-1990s and is comparable to peer states in the Southeast who incarcerate significantly fewer people per capita.”
These local chambers join a growing list of influential stakeholders, including the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry, the Pelican Institute and other conservative think tanks, the Louisiana Family Forum and other faith-based groups, as well as some law enforcement and victim advocates, calling for sentencing and corrections reforms that will save the state money and get a better public safety return on investment.
The Statement of Principles proclaims that “Anecdotes aren’t good enough. Policy decisions must be driven by data and carefully weigh risk and rehabilitation. We should consider safe alternatives to prison and implement programs proven to reduce the likelihood of committing new crimes and increase the likelihood of future employment.”
Signatories on the Statement of Principles include:
- Baton Rouge Area Chamber
- Broussard Chamber of Commerce
- Chamber of Southwest Louisiana
- Crowley Chamber of Commerce
- Jefferson Chamber of Commerce
- New Orleans Chamber of Commerce
- One Acadiana
Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which includes legislators, judges, attorneys, law enforcement, corrections practitioners, and other experts, met for the seventh time Friday. They are expected to release recommendations for statutory and budgetary changes on March 16th.