BATON ROUGE, Le. (BRPROUD) — Crime continues to be a pressure point for people around Louisiana as the state’s three major cities top national violent crime charts. A new task force is looking to find new ways to deal with the issue at the legislative level.
“There are some bad people on our streets that are inflicting a tremendous amount of damage and pain to the citizens of this state,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry, who chairs the task force.
There has been a renewed call for criminal justice reform in Louisiana as a new administration is looming and some of the conservative legislature feel penalties don’t go far enough. Some lawmakers during the regular session tried to suggest the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative bills from 2017 have not helped.
“JRI does not have data yet. JRI was provided five years and now the JRI data is being collected,” said Sarah Whittington, the Advocacy Director of the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana.
Advocates quickly pushed back against the idea during the session. The resolution that created the task force caused some debate over language that heavily implied the current system has led to higher crime rates, which has not been proven. In the end, the resolution created the Violent Crime Task Force as a way to study the past reforms and current data around incarceration, crime rates, and recidivism.
“We can all recognize that we have a problem. I think that this task force has been put together very carefully with some great people who each bring to this task force a unique perspective of our criminal justice system,” Landry said.
Over the next few months, the task force will collect data, call witnesses, and talk about ways the state can tackle the crime issue through legislation in the new administration.
Advocates spoke at the first meeting about how they want crime to be discussed, but fear harsher penalties will be the route the legislature may take. They want to focus more on topics like getting children access to early childhood education, job opportunities, etc.
“We do hope that there is some recognition that the route of hyper punitive approaches to public policy has not made our state a safer place to be,” said Will Harrell, the Senior Policy Counsel with Voters Organized to Educate.
The task force has members of the legislature, District Attorneys Association, the United Way, Right on Crime, Board of Pardons, and more to reflect the bipartisan group that helped pass the reforms in 2017.
The next meeting will be in October where they will discuss requested data and take public comment.