LA governor signs historic criminal justice reform bills

Published: Jun. 15, 2017 at 9:16 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2017 at 4:48 AM CDT
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LOUISIANA (KSLA) - New bills signed into law Thursday morning by Gov. John Bel Edwards aim to change Louisiana's reputation as the most imprisoned state in the country.

"With this ambitious package, Louisiana is projected to reduce the prison population by 10 percent and save $262 million over the next decade," according to the bills' package summary.

"Seventy percent of these savings – an estimated $184 million – will be reinvested into programs and policies proven to reduce recidivism and support victims of crime,"

The legislation signed into law includes:

  • Senate Bill 139 by Sen. Danny Martiny:
    • Provides alternatives to incarceration like drug rehabilitation. Expands probation eligibility to third-time nonviolent offenders, as well as first-time, lower-level violent offenders. It also gives opportunities for release. Consolidates eligibility for parole consideration for prisoners convicted of nonviolent, non-sex offenses at 25 percent of sentence served.
  • Senate Bill 220 by Senate President John Alario:
    • This bill focuses prison space on serious and violent offenders. It does this by removing less serious crimes to the violent crimes list and merging redundant theft and burglary offenses.
  • Senate Bill 221 by Alario:
    • This bill works with repeat offenders by lowering the mandatory minimum sentence for second and third offenses.
  • Senate Bill 16  by Sen. Dan Claitor:
    • Ensures that most people sentenced to life as juveniles receive an opportunity for parole consideration after serving a minimum of 25 years in prison. 
  • House Bill 249  by Rep. Tanner Magee:
    • Works with offenders who are given fines they cannot pay. It will do this by determining a person’s ability to pay and creating a payment plan with which they can comply. It also will differentiate punishments for people who are unable to pay compared to people who choose not to pay.
  • House Bill 489 by Rep. Walt Leger:
    • Helps to end the cycle of re-imprisonment by reinvesting into programs and policies meant to help keep offenders from repeating past behaviors. It also supports crime victims by mandating the collection and reporting of data to track the outcomes of the Justice Reinvestment package.
  • House Bill 116 by Rep. Stephen Dwight:
    • Streamlines registration for crime victim notification and ensures that victims can request certain measures for their individual safety as a condition of an offender’s release. 
  • House Bill 519 by Rep. Julie Emerson:
    • Streamlines the process for people with criminal convictions to apply for and receive occupational licenses. 
  • House Bill 680 by Rep. Joe Marino:
    • Suspends child support payments for people who have been incarcerated for more than six months unless the person has the means to pay or is imprisoned for specified offenses. It also allows courts to extend child support payments beyond the termination date for the period of time in which payments were suspended. 
  • House Bill 681 by Rep. Helena Moreno:
    • Lifts Louisiana’s ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known SNAP benefits or food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits, also known as TANF benefits or welfare, for drug offenders returning home from prison.

Louisiana's Head of Prisons Jimmy LeBLanc said the policy changes will go into effect Nov. 1.

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