There are a lot of lists that compare a lot of things about the states in these United States. Sometimes those lists are whimsical and funny. Sometimes those lists for us to take a long hard look at the place we call home. When it comes to crime and incarceration we, the people of Louisiana, need to take one of those long hard looks.

Louisiana ranks first in the list of states with the highest incarceration rates in the country. That means our jails and penitentiaries do a booming business. One person in particular sees the fallacy with locking up so many of our citizens. That person is Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson.

Justice Johnson believes that our state should reconsider how we deal with low-level prison inmates. She suggests in comments made to the Louisiana Radio Network that job training programs and not prison would offer these citizens and our state a better chance for a positive outcome.

So someone finally has to make the connection, well if we’re number one in locking people up and we’re number one in terms of poverty, maybe there is a connection there.

Justice Johnson also points out that changing the way the state chooses to incarcerate criminals could actually have a solid financial effect on the state's money troubles too. Last fiscal year the state spent approximately $600 million in the state corrections department. Reducing the prison population will certainly help lower that statistic.

The Chief Justice cited a program recently introduced by South Carolina where they found a way to reduce their incarcerations. The changes in policy and procedure reduced that state's prison spending by $350 million. In addition to reducing the prison population, that state also saw a decrease in violent crimes.

We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel and when another state has done it and done it well and they can show us the way then we need to take advantage of it.

When a state's greatest asset is its people you have to invest in that asset. I believe we'd get more production out of a trained and job ready citizen than a citizen who simply sits in a jail cell all day.

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