The Legislative Auditor’s Office has released a report highlights possible ways to reduce Louisiana’s incarceration rate, which is the highest in the world. Karen LeBlanc with the Legislative Auditor’s Office says they looked at everything from pre- to post-incarceration. She says the state can save money by providing alternatives like diversion and specialty courts for people arrested on drug charges.

“We calculated that we could save about $70 million is we put those individuals through a drug court instead of through a jail,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc says they also propose sentencing reform, like reducing mandatory minimum sentences and habitual offender laws, which she says results in longer jail time for those convicted and more expenses for the state. She says they also want to see nonviolent offenders with more probation and less jail time.

“We calculated that if certain offenders were sentenced to probation for two years instead of incarceration, the savings would be between $100 and $200 million depending on whether they were housed in a local jail or state facility,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc says they are calling for more rehabilitation programs in jails, especially at the local level where over half of Louisiana’s inmates are housed. She says the money the state saves from these reforms can be used to fund the rehab programs.

Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorney’s Office, Pete Adams, says they would rather see solutions that didn’t cost anything and only had savings. He says they like the idea of drug courts, but they cost money. He says it takes a dedicated team for drug courts to be successful.

“It’s not a 40 hour a week job. It’s literally 24/7 for the judge, the prosecutor and the criminal defense attorney to make those things work right,” Adams said.

Adams says putting more nonviolent offenders on probation instead of in jail would mean getting more probation officers, and there’s a cost associated with that. He says it could also be dangerous for the public.

“What I mean by that is career burglars tend to recidivate unless they’re treated. So just turning people out without the appropriate supervision or services may not be the best move,” Adams said.