Letter: La. prison statistics unsettling

We should all be very concerned about the state of the Louisiana prison situation. In the Nov. 16 issue of “The Economist,” it was indicated the number of prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes in the state prison systems in the United States was a total of 1,204.

Of this number, Louisiana had 429, or about 35 percent. Louisiana only has about 1.5 percent of the nationwide population, so something is obviously wrong.

To make matters worse, Louisiana has the highest per capita prisoner population of any state in the nation. To make matters even worse, the United States has the highest per capita prisoner population in the world, the second being Rwanda.

This seems to be the result of two causes. First, we have a very strenuous three-strikes law, and second, our normal sentences are too lengthy. Unless our people are the most criminal population in the entire world, we have entirely too many prisoners.

To put this in perspective, the United States has per capita five times more prisoners than Iran, 13 times more than China and 20 times more than Germany. A majority of Louisiana’s prisoners are housed in for-profit facilities and are provided very little job training or counseling.

The crisis in our system can be solved only by the efforts of the sheriffs, district attorneys, judges and the Legislature. The incarceration policy costs the state an enormous amount of money, plus, it doesn’t work. It is logical that if sentences were shortened and there was major training and counseling, more prisoners would be employed, paying taxes instead of costing taxpayers money. Even Angola’s warden agrees.

Something must be done to bring us in line with the rest of the United States. As we all know, Louisiana is in the bottom three on almost all studies dealing with education, health etc. Thank God for Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia. But for them, we would be the worst of the worst in almost all categories.

Edmund M. Thomas

lawyer

Shreveport