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.”

Click here to read the full letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee members.

"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.

  • Texas:  Since their 2007 reforms, the imprisonment rate is down 16%, and crime is down 30%.
  • South Carolina:  Since their 2010 reforms, their imprisonment rate is down 16%, and crime is down 16%.
  • North Carolina:  Since their 2011 reforms, their imprisonment rate is down 3% and crime is down 20%.
  • Georgia:  Since their 2012 reforms, their imprisonment rate is down 7% and crime is down 11%.

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.

  • The first video features Speaker Pro Temp Walt Leger (D-New Orleans), a former prosecutor and author of Act 261 of the 2017 Regular Session, one of the ten bills included in the criminal justice reinvestment package of legislation. Click here to watch Rep. Leger’s video.
  • The second video released highlights the Rev. Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum and member of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force. Click here to watch Rev. Mills’ video.
  • The third video includes Natalie LaBorde, Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Department of Corrections, the state agency charged with overseeing implementation of the reforms. Click here to watch LaBorde's video.
  • The fourth video features Sheriff Craig Webre of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, explaining why these reforms are good news for his parish and all of Louisiana. Click here to watch Sheriff Webre’s video.
  • The fifth video highlights Flozell Daniels Jr., Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force member and victims advocate. Click here to watch the video.
  • Director of the Division of Children and Families with the Louisiana Supreme Court, Alanah Odom Hebert, speaks about necessity of reforms in the sixth video. Click here to watch.
  • State Senator Danny Martiny addresses why it was critical for the legislature to act on reform in Louisiana. Click here to watch Sen. Martiny’s video.
  • Voices of the Experience representative, Norris Henderson, speaks about the necessity of reinvestment and rehabilitation for those reentering society. Click here to watch.
  • The final video harkens back to the day Gov. Edwards was joined by a large, bipartisan group of legislators and stakeholders as he signed the package of criminal justice reinvestment legislation. Click here to watch the video.