A federal report says Louisiana's prison population fell 2 percent last year, but the state still has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., a number well ahead of Mississippi, the state that comes in second.

Dr. Peter Scharf with the Justice and Public Health Institute at the LSU Health Sciences Center, says there's an effort to lower the prison population, but it will take time.

We're trying to dig out of the hole that occurred way before many of us got involved

"We're trying to dig out of the hole that occurred way before many of us got involved," Scharf said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisiana's prison population in 2013 was at 39,000, a drop of nearly 900 people from 2012. Scharf says he anticipates the state's incarceration rate will continue to decline, but it will take time to get it to a more acceptable level.

"There's a backlog of people with very long sentences," Scharf said.

Scharf says Louisiana's Department of Corrections has put programs in place to help recently released inmates stay out of jail, and there's been a push in the legislature to lower sentences for certain crimes. He says the mindset on how to punish criminals is changing and that could help lower the prison population.