Baton Rouge - Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced his 2017 Regular Legislative Session agenda to tackle criminal justice reform and strengthen community policing standards in Louisiana. The governor’s announcement follows months of deliberation among the members of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force and the release of their comprehensive plan for safely reducing the state’s highest-in-the-nation imprisonment rate. If adopted into law, the task force recommendations would reduce the state’s prison population by 13 percent over the next decade, reduce the number of people supervised in the community by 16 percent, and save taxpayers $305 million.

“While Louisiana is the incarceration capital of the world, I refuse to believe that our people are inherently more sinister than in other parts of the world,” said Gov. Edwards. “For too long this has been a drain on our state resources and done little to make our cities and towns more secure. Similarly, our community policing standards are outdated and in need of modernization to help meet the new challenges law enforcement officers face daily as they protect communities across Louisiana. The agenda I am proposing is comprehensive and will allow us to keep our streets safe while shrinking our bloated prisons.”

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 task force generated endorsements from a wide array of thought leaders, including Right on Crime, Smart on Crime Louisiana 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.

“Now is the time to act and make bold legislative changes and financial investments that will make meaningful changes to our criminal justice system,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. “If passed, the proposed legislation will build upon and enhance the changes we have already made that are working to reduce incarceration while improving public safety at the same time.”

The governor’s criminal justice legislative agenda includes:

Implementing a felony class system, targeted penalties for lower-level nonviolent offenses – Senate President John Alario (R-District 8)

  • Implement Felony Class System
  • Revise Drug Penalties to Target Higher-Level Drug Offenses
  • Consolidate Laws on Property Crimes and Raise the Value Threshold for Felony Charges
  • Distinguish Penalties Relative to Weapons Offenses and Severity of Underlying Crime

Habitual Offender Bill – Senate President Alario (R-District 8)

  • Focus Habitual Offender Penalties on More Serious Crimes
  • Reduce Cleansing Period for Certain Prior Crimes

Implementing best practices in release and community supervision – Sen. Danny Martiny (R-District 10)

  • Establish Back-End Release Mechanism for Non-Violent Offenses
  • Expand Alternatives to Incarceration
  • Establish a Temporary Furlough Policy for Inmates with Serious Medical Needs
  • Expand Incentives for Inmates to Participate in Recidivism Reducing Programming
  • Streamline Parole Release
  • Focus Community Supervision on the Highest-Risk Period and Establish Earned Compliance Credit Incentive
  • Address Gaps and Deficiencies in Swift, Certain, and Proportional Sanctions
  • Provide the Opportunity for Parole Consideration to Some of Louisiana’s Longest-Serving Inmates

Mitigating the collateral consequences of felony convictions – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – Rep. Helena Moreno (D-District 93)

  • Eliminate the restriction for those with drug convictions from receiving SNAP benefits during their first year following release from prison

Mitigating the collateral consequences of felony convictions – Licensing boards – Rep. Julie Emerson (R-District 39)

  • Improve the current licensing board requirements to require full professional licensure to qualified applicants rather than provisional licenses, to eliminate waiting periods for license applications, and to prohibit discrimination in licensure based on underlying violent or sex offenses, except where the profession is specifically relevant to the nature of the crime.

Mitigating the collateral consequences of felony convictions – Child support Payments During Incarceration – Rep. Joe Marino (I-District 85)

  • Suspend Child Support During Incarceration

Data Collection + Reinvestment – Rep. Walt Leger (D-District 91)

  • Mandate Data Collection and Tracking of Performance Measures to Monitor Implementation and Outcomes of Justice Reinvestment Reforms
  • Reinvest More than 50% of Savings From Reduction in State Prisoner Population

Ensuring that criminal justice debt is not a barrier to reentry – Rep. Tanner Magee (R-District 53)

  • Tailor Criminal Justice Financial Obligations to Person’s Ability to Pay
  • Modify Penalties for Failure to Pay Criminal Justice Financial Obligations

Victim Notification – Rep. Stephen Dwight (R-District 35)

  • Improve and Streamline Victim Notification

Juvenile Life without Parole – Sen. Dan Claitor (R-District 16)

  • Provide Parole Eligibility to Certain Inmates Sentenced to Life Without Parole as a Juvenile

The governor’s community policing standards legislative agenda includes:

Enhanced Law Enforcement Training Requirements – Reps. Ted James (D-District 101) and Katrina Jackson (D-District 16)

  • Strengthens training requirements for the Council on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.), to include requiring the development and implementation curriculum for de-escalation, bias policing recognition, sudden in-custody deaths, and crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers and provides grounds for revocation of P.O.S.T. certification.

Enhancing the Louisiana Uniform Law Enforcement Statewide Reporting Database – Reps. Jimmy Harris (D-District 99) and Katrina Jackson (D-District 16)

  • Provide enhanced reporting to the Louisiana Uniform Law Enforcement Reporting Database to ensure the reporting of certain disciplinary action

Gov. Edwards’ full legislative agenda for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session will be unveiled throughout the week. The criminal justice reform and community policing agenda can be found here. This page will be updated throughout the week with additional proposals from the governor.

Click here for more information on the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force recommendations released on March 16, 2017.