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The high costs of incarceration

Incarceration is a very costly form of punishment. This is true in multiple ways.

For one, imprisonment can inflict a huge personal cost on those given this punishment. For one, there is the massive loss of freedom one experiences when in prison. However, a prison sentence can also affect a person long after their sentence ends. Having been in prison can have relationship, reputation, family, emotional and employment affects that last long into a person’s future.

Incarceration can also take a big financial toll on a state and its taxpayers. This is underscored in a recent report by Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor.

Imprisonment is a very common type of punishment here in Louisiana. As the report mentioned, Louisiana leads the nation in incarceration rate. The report looked at what financial impacts alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent offenders could have in the state. The report predicts that such alternatives could save the state a lot of money. For example, the report estimated that:

  • Using probation, rather than prison terms, for certain drug offenders could lead to well over $100 million in savings.
  • Using drug courts could, over just two years, result in almost $70 million in savings.

So, how much alternatives to incarceration are used in Louisiana can have major implications, for both those facing criminal charges and the state’s citizens generally. The report made some policy recommendations. It will be interesting to see what impacts the report and its recommendations ultimately have on state policy regarding incarceration and alternatives to imprisonment.

Source: nola.com, “Louisiana could save money with prison alternatives, auditor says,” Sept. 6, 2016

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