Report: Number of people serving life in Louisiana dwarfs entire state prison population in 1970
Louisiana is one of 24 states where the number of lifers today exceeds the total number of inmates four decades ago, according to a report released this week from the national nonprofit The Sentencing Project as part of its campaign for sentencing reform nationwide. The populations are roughly the same in another nine states.
“As states come to terms with the consequences of 40 years of prison expansion, sentencing reform efforts across the country have focused on reducing stays in prison or jail for those convicted of nonviolent drug and property crimes,” the report states. “At the same time, policymakers have largely neglected to address the staggering number of people serving life sentences.”
The consequences are exacerbated in Louisiana, where people sentenced to life have no chance at parole, said Ashley Nellis, senior researcher with The Sentencing Project. That means more years spent behind bars and higher health care costs for geriatric prisoners under the state’s care.
Almost 5,000 inmates — an estimated 15% of the total state prison population — are serving life without parole in Louisiana, which imposes such sentences at the highest rate in the nation.
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