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Louisiana

For decades, Louisiana has had one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, while New Orleans—and more recently, Baton Rouge—are both near the top of the list when it comes to cities with the highest crime. While previous criminal justice reform efforts have fallen flat and not made their way through the legislature, it appears that the Pelican State is finally ready to turn a corner and implement conservative, data-driven, proven policies to improve public safety while lowering their incarceration rate.

In June 2016, in the midst of a marathon Legislative Session grappling with cuts necessary to balance the state budget, the inaugural meeting of the Justice Reinvestment Task Force took place. The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, as created by HCR 82 of the 2015 Legislative session, is a coalition whose members include judges, legislators, a sheriff, a prosecutor, a religious leader and other criminal justice and corrections professionals.  The group is charged with developing recommendations to reduce the prison population, maintain/improve public safety, such as revisions to pretrial procedures, sentencing rules, and evidence-based investment in programs that lessen recidivism.

A key player working with the Task Force is the Pew Charitable Trust, which includes a team of seven attorneys, criminologists and data analysts who travel to Louisiana every two weeks from Washington, D.C., where the organization’s Public Safety Performance Project is headquartered. The end-game is to prepare a Legislative package for the 2017 session that will bring about substantive systemic reform.

Governor Edwards, following through on promises he made during his election campaign, endorsed the idea of making substantive reforms across the criminal justice system with the goal of changing Louisiana’s status as the most incarcerating state in the nation

“You will never convince me that the people of Louisiana are innately more sinister or criminal than elsewhere. So what are we doing?” Edwards asserts that a “lock ’em up” culture has failed to reduce crime even as the state’s incarceration rate has shot up 35 percent over the past 20 years — currently at 816 per 100,000 people, double the national average. This costs the state $600 million to $700 million each year. One of the reasons Governor Edwards cites as why the time is right for such reform is the leadership of long time Secretary of Corrections, James LeBlanc. LeBlanc, who was retained by Edwards under his administration, has served as Corrections Secretary for the past two administrations, and has been responsible for the implementation of evidence-based reentry programs starting as far back as 2004.

The legislation establishing the Task Force was a joint effort of both sides of the legislative aisle.  Bi-partisan support for this effort is wide-spread, including the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association the Louisiana Public Defender Board and a number of non-profits focused on criminal justice reform.

Right on Crime Signatory Kevin Kane of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, states, “The formation of the Task Force shows that Louisiana is getting serious about criminal justice reform. Their recommendations will be critical to transforming our prison system.”

The continued budget deficits, which are growing everyday as a result of the recent historic flooding in 2016 of the northern and southern parts of the state, make the need for finding cost-effective ways to enhance public safety in Louisiana even more pressing than ever before.

Sources:

Smart on Crime-Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force Video.

Simerman, John. September 5, 2016.Louisiana Could Lose Title of Highest-in-the-Nation Incarceration Rate, But Hurdles Exist. The New Orleans Advocate.

Purpera, Daryl. September 9, 2016. Our Views: Same Money on Prison Costs. The Advocate.

Webster, Richard; Bullington, Johnathan. May 11, 2016. Why Does New Orleans Have More Murders Than Similar Cities? Experts Search for Answers. New Orleans Times-Picayune.

ABC WGNO, New Orleans. February 29, 2016. The 30 ‘murder capitals in the U.S.-Baton Rouge and New Orleans Make the List.

The Advocate. May 27, 2016. Criminal Justice Sees Real Reform.

Vote NOLA. June 17, 2016. Louisiana’s Parole Reform Law Continues a Positive Trend in Criminal Justice Reform.

Mann, Robert. July 10, 2016. A Moment of Crisis, Opportunity for Louisiana’s Criminal Justice System. New Orleans Time-Picayune.

Louisiana Felony Class System Task Force to begin in September

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…

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Elain Ellerbe | June 29, 2017
But that’s a good thing since we’re talking about Louisiana no longer being marked as the number one incarcerator in the world.  During the 2017 legislative session, with Right…

Criminal Justice Reform Summit | Austin, TX

Katie Greer | June 14, 2017
Think tank leaders and reform advocates from all over the country traveled to Austin on June 7 to gain insight on major issues affecting the criminal justice movement at…

The Conservative Case for Sentencing Reform in Louisiana

Katie Greer | May 16, 2017
This article, written by Right on Crime signatory David Keene, originally appeared in The Times-Picayune on May 2, 2017. As is well known by now to anyone paying attention, Louisiana’s…

Tony Perkins Makes Case for Criminal Justice Reform in Louisiana

Katie Greer | April 20, 2017
Criminal justice reform could improve public safety while saving Louisiana hundreds of millions of dollars. That was the message delivered at Tuesday’s breakfast briefing jointly hosted by Right on…

Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force Recommendations for Criminal Justice Reform Released Today

Elain Ellerbe | March 16, 2017
After 10 months of digging into the drivers of Louisiana’s worst ranked prison population by rate, the bi-partisan Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force rolled out its recommendations at a…

Louisiana Association of Business and Industry: State’s Inadequate Workforce ‘May Be Fulfilled’ By Ex-Offenders

Right on Crime | November 30, 2016
This blog post was written by Jace Waechter, a Right on Crime research associate. On November 18, the Louisiana Association Business and Industry (LABI) held a summit to address…

The Advocate: Growing Coalition of Louisiana Leaders Push for Reform Through Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Right on Crime | November 21, 2016
This blog post was written by Jace Waechter, a Right on Crime research assistant. Last Thursday, a task force designed to look at ways to improve public safety and…

South Carolina and Louisiana Make Progress on ‘Raise the Age’ Legislation

Michael Haugen | May 9, 2016
If recent legislative progress is any indication, two more states—South Carolina and Louisiana—are poised to “raise the age” at which criminal cases involving juvenile offenders could be tried in…

New Orleans Business Leaders are Smart on Crime

Right on Crime | December 18, 2014
A New Orleans businessman, Pres Kabacoff, calls to the state legislature to look for ways to reduce state spending, in the state that is “the most incarcerating in the nation,”…

ROC signatory Kevin Kane talks to NPR

Right on Crime | July 9, 2014
Signatory to the Right on Crime statement of principles and President of the Pelican Institute Kevin Kane talks to NPR about Louisiana’s criminal justice system. “It is a growing…

ROC testifies in Louisiana

Right on Crime | April 24, 2014
Right on Crime signatory Jerry Madden testified before a Louisiana Senate Committee on a bill that aims to lessen sentences for non-violent drug offenders. “It saves money, saves lives…
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