New Orleans’s criminal justice system—as in localities throughout the country—is enormous, consuming the lion’s share of our municipal budget to the detriment of other core government functions. The police department and the jail are the biggest consumers. Historically, police and jail budgets have expanded as the number of people arrested and detained has increased. But in recent years, those budgets have grown even as significantly fewer people have been arrested and detained.
Although it is now widely understood that increasing arrests and detention is not the most effective strategy to maximize public safety and promote justice, we also must understand how best to apply criminal justice resources. The city must set objectives for what our systems of safety and justice can reasonably achieve and what must be done outside the justice system in community health and other spheres. Then the city can deploy its police and jail resources in a way that meets public safety goals and aligns with our common determination to foster a just and fair society.Download PDF