SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - In less than a week, nearly 2,000 inmates in Louisiana prisons will be released. It's all part of criminal justice reforms approved by state lawmakers earlier this year.
And the release of these non-violent and non-sex offender inmates, who qualify, begins November 1.
The reforms are a response to one startling fact. For the last 12 years, Louisiana has been considered the incarceration capital of the world.
The reform measures, come from a set of 10 bills and are expected to reduce the state's prison population by 10 percent over the next decade and save $262 million.
Secretary James Le Blanc with the Louisiana Department of Corrections is traveling across the state to shore up public support for the criminal justice reform package approved by the state legislature back in June.
Elain Ellerbe, from the group "Right on Crime" that helped craft the reform legislation, joined Le Blanc on this stop in Shreveport. Ellerbe told us the measures closely mirror similar efforts proven successful in 34 others states already.
"(They) Have all seen considerable decreases in their prison population as well as decreases in their crime rate. And so, right there says that these programs are successful," explained Ellerbe.
If the reforms can save $262 million then Caddo District Attorney James Stewart told us it's critical that much of that money pays for programs aimed at lowering Louisiana's recidivism rate that now stands at 42 percent.
"If they don't come back we put our resources on dealing with the uptick in violent crime," said Stewart.
Secretary Le Blanc conceded that 1,900 prisoners being released in one day does sound a bit startling. But he explained it's important to keep that figure in perspective.
"We release 15-hundred every month normally," added Le Blanc.
Le Blanc says those monthly early release figures will very quickly taper down once this first wave of releases is over.
The United States has the largest prison population in the world with just 5 percent of the population, but 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
And since 2005, Louisiana has had the highest per capita incarceration rate. According to figures by the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2015 776 out of every 100-thousand Louisiana residents were in prison.