The legislative task force that did the research that led to the new laws found that Louisiana was out of kilter compared with other Southern states. "The Task Force found that the state sent people to prison for drug, property, and other nonviolent offenses at twice the rate of South Carolina and three times the rate of Florida, even though the states had nearly identical crime rates," the report says.
Thanks to leadership from Gov. Edwards and some legislators, we're finally making a serious effort to reverse that trend.
Trusties who are allowed to work in jails "are exactly the ones we would want to release a little early because they have proven themselves trustworthy and they have a good work ethic and they didn't commit a serious violent offense," Gov. Edwards said on his radio show.
"Those are the ones that all states are targeting for criminal justice reform," he said.
The Houma Today, in an Oct. 18 editorial, said this about the criminal justice reinvestment initiative:
“Louisiana is embarking on a set of prison reforms that have long been needed to reduce the state’s shamefully high prison population.
“We currently lead the nation in locking up our people – a fact that reflects not a higher degree of lawlessness here but a draconian set of sentencing laws that have kept huge numbers of nonviolent offenders behind bars for cruelly long periods of time.
“But the Louisiana Legislature worked with Gov. John Bel Edwards earlier this year to pass a set of laws aimed at turning this situation around and funneling much of the savings into programs designed to keep people out of jail.
“These are changes that enjoy broad, bipartisan support. They will introduce some common sense reforms into a system that has for too long has imprisoned far too many people.”
Pelican Institute CEO Daniel J. Erspamer, in a guest column to The Shreveport Times, defended the recent reforms saying:
“It is essential to acknowledge that Louisiana currently has the highest imprisonment rate in the country. Our jails are overcrowded, and lengths of sentences in Louisiana are far greater than every other state, with taxpayers bearing the sky-rocketing costs.
“Clearly, what Louisiana has been doing for decades does not work and is out of sync with the policies of our neighboring states, which have reduced recidivism, rehabilitated former prisoners and saved taxpayer money.
“Since Louisiana has committed to these important reforms, we hope and expect leaders from across the state will work in good faith to implement these badly needed changes. Louisiana deserves a better return on investment than it has been getting, and we’re now executing a proven plan to do just that.
“Working together, we can make our state a better place to live, work, and raise a family, and these reforms are a strong start.”
In an editorial from Oct. 16, The Advocate had this to say about the historic, bipartisan criminal justice reforms passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards:
“Louisiana has for years put too many people in jail for smaller offenses, folks who in most states are in work-release or other supervision...
“The new Louisiana law is intended to bring our system into line with those in other places, including Texas and several southern states.
“Reforming this system is a good idea, and an extraordinary bipartisan coalition formed in the Legislature to pass a set of bills signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards.”