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New Orleans' reform of pretrial detention, bail shows success, but budget cuts loom

from The Christian Science Monitor via Alaska Dispatch

Before Hurricane Katrina, the sprawling Orleans Parish Prison complex had 7,524 beds — on average 6,500 of them occupied each day — making it the ninth-largest jail in the nation, and far out of proportion to the city's size. But the jail's 12 buildings were heavily damaged by the storm and floodwaters, so it became a prime target of those who believed the entire justice system could be reinvented along with the jail. The philosophy behind the reforms is to arrest fewer people and to keep fewer prisoners after they are arrested. One problem feeding jail overcrowding is the fact that most jail inmates are there for petty offenses and, though not high safety risks, remain there because they are so impoverished that they cannot afford even the small sums of bail that have been set for them. more

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