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Photo: Isabel Barrios


The New Orleans Index at Ten: Changing Course on Incarceration

Crime and Incarceration Rates


Vera’s New Orleans office has worked to advance practices that achieve equality, fairness, and effectiveness in the administration of justice. LEARN MORE »

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Vera New Orleans has collaborated with government, community, and civic organizations to develop and operate the city’s first comprehensive pretrial services system. LEARN MORE »




Hurricane Katrina was a tipping point for the New Orleans criminal justice system. It brought a public unmasking of perverse system practices that were commonplace before the storm and catalyzed a broad rethinking that continues ten years later. Through the voices of those who fought for reform—from elected officials to community organizers, advocates to public health experts—this blog series reflects on local incarceration practices, the movement to foster fairness in its criminal justice system, and efforts to increase safety for all communities. These voices highlight how far we have come, how far we still have to go, and where New Orleans fits in the national movement to end the over-use of local incarceration.

Pretrial Justice
November 13, 2015
By Kenneth Polite

Kenneth PoliteAt the federal level in the Eastern District of Louisiana (EDLA), our Smart on Crime approach includes rethinking pretrial justice. On the local level, pretrial detainees make up a considerable—and costly—portion of our jail population. At any given time, nearly a third of all inmates in county and parish jails across the country are defendants awaiting trial. We incarcerate these individuals at a cost of over $9 billion in taxpayer dollars.  KEEP READING »




The shameful cost of unnecessary detention
November 6, 2015
By Derwyn Bunton

Derwyn BuntonMore than 15 years ago, I met with nearly two dozen teenage boys in a room inside a juvenile prison in northeast Louisiana. We all knew each other, but we had never all come together before. I was their lawyer and they were my clients; they represented the class of children who were being abused daily inside state juvenile prisons. I told them ... KEEP READING »




Getting jail size right now
October 28, 2015
By Michael Cowen

I think it unlikely that an American city has ever undergone a more profound transformation of its social fabric than New Orleans in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina abruptly disorganized the institutional status quo. The import of this disorganization for the life of the city as a whole often gets lost in controversy about... KEEP READING »



What will be different for New Orleans in the years to come?
October 21, 2015
By Luceia LeDoux and Charmel Gaulden

“What is different?” That question rested on the lips of the many people—policymakers, journalists, and funders—who visited New Orleans to survey the city’s progress 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Some described the physical rebuilding of the city—stronger, better, safer—or the spirit of the people: resilient. Others challenged these depictions, which they considered a revisionist retelling of the hurricane’s impact. The truth remains somewhere in between. KEEP READING »



How pretrial services empowers the underprivileged
October 12, 2015
By Dolfinette Martin

Many people think that jails are where people stay for only a night or two before they are released, but the reality is quite a different story. Sixty days was a long time to be away from my family, separated from my children, and worried about the tiny life growing inside of me.  KEEP READING »  



Grassroots organizers key to rebuilding New Orleans
September 23, 2015
By Norris Henderson

"In the wake of the Katrina reconstruction, where low-income people in communities of color were once again left behind, we’re still standing, we’re still organizing, and we will continue to lead in the fight to end the over-incarceration of our community."  KEEP READING »




To act justly
September 23, 2015
By Rosie Washington

"New Orleans has the unique opportunity to develop and implement reforms that protect public safety and ensure justice for all members of the community."  KEEP READING »




Why is bail more closely tied to wealth than risk?
September 4, 2015
By Susan Guidry

"It is critical to shift the presumption away from requiring arrestees to post a bond, and instead use an objective system to help determine actual risk." KEEP READING »





Reform efforts bear fruit, but racial disparities remain
August 28, 2015
By Flozell Daniels

"More important than distributing accolades, however, is the recognization that our steadfast commitment to preserving our victories and advancing reforms must not waiver." KEEP READING »




Ten years after Katrina, New Orleans has changed course on incarceration
August 24, 2015
By Jon Wool

"There have been many changes in the criminal justice system since Katrina," according to New Orleans Office Director Jon Wool, "but the commitment to rein in our overuse of jail incarceration provides the greatest hope and opportunity for setting the city on a better course." KEEP READING »