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Elain Ellerbe | July 6, 2017
When the Justice Reinvestment Task Force recommendations were released in March, the comprehensive report included a recommendation to the legislature to restructure Louisiana’s 600-plus list of crimes with individual penalties into an organized, five- or six-tier system. This recommendation came from a policy subgroup that included a current prosecutor, four former prosecutors, several judges, and a public defender.
After much debate during legislative session between the district attorneys, judges, and legislators, they formed a compromise requesting further study beyond what the Justice Reinvestment Task Force had provided. Senate Bill 220, signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards, was amended to create the Louisiana Felony Class System Task Force. The new task force will be made up of House and Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairmen, attorneys, representatives from the Supreme Court, district judges, and policy advisors from the governor’s office.
As the Justice Reinvestment Task Force has previously noted, it’s in the best interest of public safety to have a clear, consistent and simplistic sentencing system whereby felony offenses fall into a designated class. The Felony Class System Task Force will develop recommendations to ensure sentencing is both fair and consistent with the severity of the crimes committed. The goal is to create a more transparent system that will allow victims, defendants, and criminal justice practitioners to more easily know and track outcomes and ensure justice is served.
The task force is mandated to have its initial meeting by September 15, 2017. It also must hold a total of six meetings prior to the due date of the final report which will be February 1, 2018. Right on Crime is presently working with criminal justice reform advocates to provide expert input into the process as it goes forward.