BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Some 1,900 inmates are set to leave prisons and jails Wednesday, as new laws allowing for "good time" releases take effect.
State correction officials first estimated that 1,400 prisoners would walk from their cells Nov. 1, but case workers have spent the past few weeks examining whether additional inmates fit the criteria for release. Under the bundle of 10 new laws, offenders doing time for non-violent, non-sex offenses qualify for early release after serving 35 percent of their sentence. (That's down from 40 percent beforehand.)
The measures could slice Louisiana's prison population by 10 percent come 2026, while ending its status as the state with the highest incarceration rate by 2018. Those projections are from the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who signed the bipartisan legislation into law this past spring.
Of the inmates slated for releases Wednesday, a plurality -- 164 -- have been serving for crimes committed in Caddo Parish. Analysis from BRProud.com estimates that 139 derive from Orleans and Jefferson parishes, respectively.
In the capital area, 128 releases derive from East Baton Rouge, 76 from Livingston and 23 in Ascension parishes.
State corrections chief James LeBlanc maintains that those being released Wednesday are leaving an average of two months ahead of schedule.
The total number of November releases is more than double the monthly average statewide. Louisiana has typically released roughly 1,500 inmates per month. Corrections officials expect that tally to fall closer to average in subsequent months.
LeBlanc maintains that the criminal justice reforms will boost public safety, adding his department reviews each inmates file prior to release.
"Risk assessments look at prior arrests, maybe anything they've been arrested for but not convicted of," he said. "All that plays a role in their level of supervision when they get out."
Under the new laws, the state will reinvest about $184 million of the estimated $262 million in savings over the next decade into services for crime victims and programs designed to keep people from returning to prison.
"I'm excited about the opportunity we have to reduce our incarceration rate, reduce our recidivism rate, reduce the amount of money we're spending on corrections and improve public safety." Gov Edwards said during his monthly radio show earlier this month.
Louisiana spends about $700 million on correctional costs each year.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.