Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards released the following statement on the passage of several critical criminal justice reform bills from his legislative agenda:
“The passage of these criminal justice reform bills marks an important step in our work to safely reduce the state’s highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate,” said Gov. Edwards. “It’s time to start getting a better return on our investment when it comes to public safety because we have been hemorrhaging money on a system with a very high failure rate for too long. When high failure means more victims and few re-entry opportunities, it is on us to do better by the people who we were elected to serve. Today’s good news means we are on the way to doing just that.”
After months of deliberation among key stakeholders, a compromise plan for safely reducing the state’s highest-in-the-nation imprisonment rate was negotiated. If adopted into law, the governor’s criminal justice reform agenda would reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent and save taxpayers $262 million over the next decade.
An estimated $184 million, which is 70 percent of the savings, will be reinvested into programs and policies that work to reduce crime and victimization. These strategic reinvestments will expand prison alternatives, fund programs in parish jails and in the community that reduce re-offending and build up services that support victims of crime. In all, these policy changes will help Louisiana take the next steps in ensuring we no longer have the highest imprisonment rate in the country.
The following bills in the governor’s criminal justice reform agenda passed out of the House Administration of Criminal Justice committee today:
SB 139 by Sen. Martiny – Expands alternatives to incarceration, streamlines parole release, expands incentives for inmates to participate in recidivism reducing programs, etc.
SB 220 and SB 221 by Sen. Alario - Together, these bills revise drug penalties to target longer sentences on higher-level drug offenders, consolidate laws on property crimes and raise the value threshold for felony charges, reduce and eliminate certain mandatory minimum sentences, and reduce habitual offender penalties.
The following bills in the governor’s criminal justice reform agenda passed off of the House floor yesterday:
HB 116 by Rep. Dwight - Improves and streamlines the victim notification process.
HB 681 by Rep. Moreno - Eliminates the restriction for those with drug convictions from receiving food stamps and other aid during their first year of release.
HB 249 by Rep. Magee - Tailors criminal justice financial obligations to a person’s ability to pay and modifies penalties for failure to pay.
HB 489 by Rep. Leger - Provides for the reinvestment of savings realized as a result of criminal justice reforms and requires the collection of certain data and information in this regard.
HB 519 by Rep. Emerson - Expands opportunities for those offenders reentering the community to earn full occupational licenses.
Similar bills in other states have generated widespread support from business leaders, faith groups and conservative think tanks as well as left-leaning advocacy organizations. In Louisiana, the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force generated endorsements from a wide array of thought leaders, including Right on Crime, Smart on Crime Louisiana, Louisiana District Attorneys Association and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce. Faith groups such as the Louisiana Family Forum and Prison Fellowship Ministries support recommendations by the task force, as well as practitioner organizations including the Louisiana District Judges Association and the Louisiana Bar Association.