A number of inmates will walk free from Caddo Correctional Center without serving their full sentences for serious felonies in separate domestic abuse cases.
Each is leaving the parish lockup just 2.5 months after being convicted of his/her crime.
Sixty-one Caddo Correctional inmates are scheduled for early release starting Wednesday, according to the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
Their release is the result of criminal justice reforms designed to reduce the prison terms of non-violent, non-sex offenders.
But an investigation of the state's information about all the Caddo prisoners who are getting released early shows three of the inmates pleaded guilty to felonies involving domestic violence.
That raises the question of whether these prisoners actually qualified for release under the new law.
The Caddo clerk of court’s website shows one of the inmates is serving time for domestic abuse aggravated assault.
That crime is defined under Louisiana law as “an assault with a dangerous weapon” by one person living in a home against another in that home. Any person convicted of that offense is supposed to be sentenced to “hard labor” for one to five years.
Another of the three inmates was convicted in Caddo Parish of domestic abuse battery, according to the clerk’s website. Records show it was his third time committing that felony.
State law defines domestic abuse battery as “the intentional use of force or violence” by one household member against another living in that home, with a third offense carrying a sentence of one to five years without the “benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.”
KSLA Investigates also identified a third inmate, who was also sentenced for a third conviction of domestic abuse battery, but with the aggravated circumstance of child endangerment. Louisiana law mandates that anyone convicted of that crime serve a minimum of two years behind bars without the possibility of their sentence being suspended.
After contacting Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' office, KSLA Investigates was told the first inmate identified in our investigation no longer is getting out of jail early.
And a DOC spokesman explained that all early release offender case files are being processed through a two-tier review, first by classification staff and then by a review panel.
Upon second review by the panel, state officials realized that this particular inmate's crime of aggravated assault domestic abuse was a "crime of violence" under Louisiana law and, therefore, that he did not qualify for early release.
The governor's office also sent KSLA Investigates a list of offenses considered "crimes of violence" under Louisiana law.
As expected, murder, rape, kidnapping and aggravated robbery, among others, are included.
However, domestic abuse battery against a dating partner or household member is only considered a "crime of violence" if the victim was seriously injured by burning.
That means that under existing state law, felons convicted of domestic abuse battery, like two of the inmates discovered in our investigation, are not considered violent offenders and thus qualify for early release.
A spokesman for Edwards also noted:
"Each offender has received at least 50 hours of pre-release re-entry programming, is meeting with transition specialists and will be placed under mandatory supervision by Probation and Parole.
"This early release is based on a reduction of the good time rate for non-violent, non-sex offenses which has been reduced from 40% to 35% of the time offenders must serve of their sentence before being released.
"These reforms are based on the most in-depth study of the criminal justice system ever done in Louisiana’s history. They were done in comparison to penalties in other conservative Southern states and the recommendations will move Louisiana in line with those states that have seen a reduction in their incarceration and recidivism rates."