Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary correcting comments made by Sen. John Kennedy during a hearing on a bipartisan sentencing overhaul bill. The legislation, S.1917, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, is sponsored by Chairman Chuck Grassley and cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham, Diane Feinstein, Mike Lee, Patrick Leahy, Jeff Flake, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker. In the hearing, Sen. Kennedy erroneously commented that Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts were an “unqualified disaster” and that the bipartisan coalition of elected officials, law enforcement, and business and community advocates did not consult with sheriffs or district attorneys prior to implementation of the legislature.
“On behalf of the people of Louisiana, I apologize for the untruthful comments he made during your mark up of sentencing reform legislation, S.1917 Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017,” Gov. Edwards said in the letter. “Like our efforts in Louisiana, your legislation is a bipartisan, good-faith effort to overhaul the broken criminal justice system in our country. At a time when Congress is so polarized and unable to get things done because of partisan politics, this is truly a worthwhile effort.”
"The Louisiana District Attorneys Association was engaged with the governor and the Legislature to develop a justice reform package that would produce savings while minimizing the risk to public safety,” said Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. “Though we didn't get everything that we wanted, we were satisfied enough to support the passage of the bills. While the new laws may need some adjustments, we believe that many of the reforms were appropriate and, in fact, were needed.”
The Justice Reinvestment Task Force included the following members:
Secretary James LeBlanc (Chair), Louisiana Department of Corrections
Sheriff Mike Cazes, West Baton Rouge
Senator Dan Claitor, Louisiana State Senate
Flozell Daniels, Foundation for Louisiana
Public Defender James Dixon, Louisiana Public Defenders Board
District Attorney Bo Duhe, 16th Judicial District
Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, Louisiana Supreme Court
Representative Terry Landry, Louisiana House of Representatives
Representative Walt Leger, Louisiana House of Representatives
Representative Sherman Mack, Louisiana House of Representatives
Senator Danny Martiny, Louisiana State Senate
Rev. Gene Mills, Louisiana Family Forum
Hon. Laurie White, Louisiana Sentencing Commission
Hon. Bonnie Jackson, 19th Judicial District Court
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is estimated to save approximately $262 million, with more than $180 million of those savings being reinvested in programs that reduce the recidivism rate and empower offenders to leave a life of crime.
Louisiana is the latest state to enact such reforms; many others, including Southern states such as Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, have experienced simultaneous drops in their crime and imprisonment rates.
Last fall, the Governor’s Office released a series of videos from key stakeholders who participated in the overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.