Louisiana Criminal Justice Reforms—Fact versus Fiction
On November 1, the first of the Justice Reinvestment legislation will be implemented as provided by Senate Bill 139, now Act 280, which provides changes for parole consideration and minimal increases in good time accruals. The Louisiana Department of Corrections has determined, after an in-depth analysis of over 16,000 offender records, that 1,600 fit the criteria as having committed nonviolent/non sex-related offenses and will be eligible for release. This 1,600, when spread across the 64 parishes of the state translates into no more than 40 to 50 individuals returning to larger cities and as low as 10 to 20 in smaller towns. For perspective, in any given month, approximately 1,600 individuals are released from prisons and jails across the state.
Despite the facts, several elected officials have vocalized concerns for public safety in response to these releases, making erroneous and inflammatory remarks to the media. To set the record straight about the releases, both Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc and Governor John Bel Edwards have each made public statements.
Secretary LeBlanc pointed out, “Nearly all of the offenders releasing on November 1 would have been released within a few months beyond November, 2017. This new law will also save the state about $356 million over the next 10 years by reducing the prison population by 10 percent”.
Governor Edwards went further in his statement, providing a point by point rebuttal refuting law enforcement’s public comments.
With the new reforms beginning to take hold, continued public education, as well as dialogue with elected officials regarding the new laws is warranted. Right on Crime will be coordinating efforts to do just that in the coming months in Louisiana. We also want to encourage the Louisiana Department of Corrections to be forthcoming and transparent as they continue through the implementation process of all justice reinvestment laws now being enacted.