A Loyola law professor releases a report on ways Louisiana can reduce its highest-in-the-world incarceration rate. Professor Bill Quigley says the first step is admitting there’s a problem. He says one way to solve the issue would be to let people out of jail while they’re awaiting trial.

“There are, at any given time, hundreds and hundreds of people in jail in Louisiana who are presumed innocent and are waiting in jail, and they’re in jail for nonviolent crimes,” Quigley said.

Quigley says people that are in jail are much more likely to plead guilty. He says Louisiana is one of only two states that allows people to be convicted with less than a unanimous jury. He says sentencing reform is needed as well, particularly for repeat offenders.

“Reducing or eliminating the use of the habitual offender law and making it easier for people to expunge their convictions once they get out so they can get back into the workforce and take care of themselves,” Quigley said.

Quigley says classifying drug offense as victimless crimes is another step Louisiana could take to reduce prison populations. Governor John Bel Edwards has said criminal justice reform will be a key issue in the upcoming regular session. Quigley hopes lawmakers implement the necessary changes to keep people out of jail because imprisonment ruins lives.

“Putting that many people in jail wrecks the lives of all those folks, wrecks the lives of their kids, makes it hard to get a job, hard to hold an apartment, hard to do lots of things that we want people to do to be self-sufficient,” Quigley said.