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Reforming New Orleans' Criminal Justice System: The Role of Data and Research

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2012
12 pages
This transcript and audio from the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Research for the Real World Seminar covers a presentation on the role of data and research in reforming New Orleans' (Louisiana) criminal justice system.
Dr. Michael Jacobson of the Vera Institute of Justice discusses his organization's work with the City of New Orleans in tracking criminal justice statistics, as well as how this empirical information became the basis for policy reform, development, and implementation following Hurricane Katrina. Following Katrina, one New Orleans councilman with a strong interest in the local criminal justice system saw this as an opportunity to reform the criminal justice system in the context of the cost-effectiveness concerns that were prevalent in rebuilding the city's institutions following Katrina's devastation. This councilman took the lead in soliciting the technical assistance of the Vera Institute of Justice in assessing the current state of the city's criminal justice system. The assessment found that the city had virtually no release on recognizance (ROR) for those arrested for either misdemeanors or felonies, and summonses were rarely used in lieu of arrest and detention. Alternatives to detention were nonexistent. The result was a costly overcrowding of jails with people who had been arrested but never officially charged. The Vera Institute was instrumental in developing a data-collection system that documented the effects of current detention policies and the resulting cost. These data framed the rationale and direction for the reform of case processing in the city.

Date Published: September 1, 2012