Justice

Louisiana Criminal Justice Reform Package Clears House & Senate

PrintFriendly and PDF

The criminal justice reform package that has been pushed by Louisiana Smart on Crime, Pelican Institute, LABI, Blueprint Louisiana, C100 Louisiana, and others has just passed the House and Senate, paving the way for the Governor to sign the ten bills into law.

In total, the Pew Institute has estimated the implementation of the bills will reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next decade. The savings the state will generate for no longer housing those inmates is projected to be $262 million, of which 70 percent has been obligated for programs to rehabilitate offenders and support victims.

Most significantly, the package of bills aims to overhaul sentencing in the state criminal codes. The package will reduce mandatory minimums, trim sentences and give some inmates access to parole eligibility sooner. It creates a medical furlough program, which allows the sickest inmates to temporarily receive treatment off site, and be eligible for Medicaid, which saves the state on medical costs. The package overhauls drug sentencing, allowing lighter sentences based on weights, and streamlines the state’s many incongruous theft penalties. One bill in the package will limit how often juvenile offenders can receive life without parole sentences.

The measure also expands prison alternatives, like drug court, and expand safety nets for people getting out of jail and returning to their communities, by reducing their financial burdens and helping them have better access to jobs. Another bill will help improve the way victims are notified when offenders have parole hearings or are released.

You can read more about the passage of the package here. The criminal justice reform package had support from Democrats, Republicans, and even the Independent members of the legislature. It was a reversal of years of poor criminal justice and sentencing policy as well as an endorsement of years of effort by The Pelican Institute’s former President, Kevin Kane, who died late last year. There was even a bill put forth and adopted, sponsored by two Democrats, commending Kevin Kane for his work on this issue. You can read it here.