By Juan Thompson Feb. 19, 2015
Louisiana — a state whose motto is Union, Justice and Confidence — is known for many things. The Bayou State is the birthplace of jazz, Creole, and Cajun food, and New Orleans is the site of the country’s largest annual Mardi Gras Carnival. But as the Times-Picayune found in a major series years ago, Louisiana is also “the world’s prison capital,” with an incarceration rate that is “nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.”
Last week, a new study from the Brennan Center for Justice reaffirmed Louisiana’s grim status as the world’s leading jailer. “Louisiana incarcerates 1 in 75 adults, that’s twice the national average [496 people per 100,000] and the highest in the world,” said the Brennan Center’s Lauren-Brooke Eisen. But the crux of the study was not the state’s prison boom. Instead, researchers sought to explain what caused the dramatic drop in crime in the United States over the past couple decades — and to what extent the decline can be linked to the expansion of the prison industrial complex. In the past 20 years, Louisiana — in tandem with the rest of the country — has experienced a drastic drop in crime at the same time the state’s prison population has doubled.