One thing national headlines focus on when it comes to Louisiana is the size of the prison populations here. It is one of the highest rates of incarceration in the United States and the world. Understanding the problem is important, but the next step, coming up with a solution, is the true challenge.
Many believe that the first step towards combating and turning back the tide of mass incarceration is ending the war on drugs. That idea is not as solid as it seems since, according to Ron Fraser, the entire population of drug offenders makes up only a small fraction of those in prison. The solutions to the mass incarceration, not just in Louisiana, but all over the United States may lie in looking at criminal justice in new ways, such as:
Eliminating mandatory minimums
Mandatory minimum sentences are a great policy for a person to run on in an election. It’s a way for a politician to show that they are tough on crime, but it actually just shows that person is tough on people who commit crimes.
Changing how prosecutors and judges are selected
In most states, as Fraser states in his column, choose prosecutors through elections. The same goes for judges. Leaving an important legal position up to an election doesn’t mean the best person is elected, merely the most popular. It also becomes a problematic conflict when a prosecutor or judge is running for an election while also working on your case.
A good defense attorney
It might be unpopular, but the American legal system is based on lawyers fighting it out. The best fail-safe against mass incarceration is having a strong, dedicated lawyer on your team fighting for your freedom. Other ways to fix the system of mass incarceration are largely out of your hands, but finding the right lawyer is one way you can take control back for yourself.
Mass incarceration can be fixed.
There are many ideas for how we should fix the problem of mass incarceration in the US and Louisiana specifically. The first step, however, will be making the decision to act.