Smart criminal justice reforms receive support from attorneys


The Louisiana State Bar Association recently called on the Legislature to adopt sentencing and correction policies that reflect evidence-based and data-driven solutions to reducing incarceration rates. Recommendations for these policies will be outlined in the Justice Reinvestment Task Force’s report to be released on March 16.

In a resolution adopted by the LSBA’s House of Delegates, practicing attorneys in Louisiana called on lawmakers to reduce the state’s nation-leading imprisonment rate and make strategic investments into prison alternatives, treatment services, and programs that reduce the likelihood of future criminal offending. The resolution includes strategic “justice reinvestment” principles that will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade while also improving public safety.

“The Louisiana State Bar Association cares very deeply about the criminal justice system. We want to protect the public, while being smart on crime,” said LSBA President Darrel J. Papillion, while testifying before the Justice Reinvestment Task Force. 

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force found that:

• Louisiana’s sentencing and parole laws were out of step with other states in the South. 

• Louisiana sent people to prison for nonviolent crimes higher than other states with similar crime rates.

• Criminal statutes in the state make felonies out of offenses like low-level drug possession and theft that would be misdemeanors in other states.

• Lawmakers have passed restrictions on parole eligibility in the last 10 years, resulting in only 2% of releases being at the discretion of the parole board.

• Fines and fees that accompany criminal convictions are generally more than defendants can pay and create barriers to successful reentry.

• The state spends more than $600 million each year on corrections, yet recidivism rates remain stubbornly high.

The Task Force is scheduled to deliver its final recommendations to the Legislature and Governor on March 16. That package of recommendations will:

• Ensure consistency in sentencing.

• Focus prison beds on those who pose a serious threat to public safety.

• Strengthen community supervision.

• Clear away barriers to successful reentry.

• Reduce the state prison population by 13%, saving taxpayers $305 million over the next decade.

• Reduce the community supervision population by 16%, making average caseload sizes drop from 139 probationers and parolees per officer to 113.

• Reinvest a substantial portion of the savings into evidence-backed prison alternatives, programming that reduces recidivism, and services that support victims of crime.

The Task Force’s final recommendations will be posted to the Legislature’s and the Governor’s websites on March 16.

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