Gov. Edwards responds to Caddo Sheriff blasting new prison laws

KSLA Investigates: The business of prison inmate labor

LOUISIANA (KSLA) - Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator will meet to discuss the new Justice Reinvestment Package after the sheriff's comments on the matter went viral.

In a statement, the governor's office said, "It comes down to the sheriff having a misunderstanding of the package."

The meeting, scheduled for some time next week, will be to discuss the implementation of the plan.

Back on October 4, the sheriff held a news conference to express his concerns about the package.

The goal of the bipartisan package is to reduce the incarceration rate, make communities whole, and promote public safety by reducing the rates of recidivism with investments in treatment and jobs training programs, according to the statement from the governor's office.

The statement went on to say:

Louisiana took historic steps to reform its criminal justice system and remove its label as the highest incarceration state in the nation.  Our state has the same crime rate as other states, but we incarcerate more people at a faster pace.  The 10 bills passed by the legislature this year, included 7 bills by Republican legislators, emphasizing the broad, bipartisan support for the package.  The bill was supported by the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the District Attorney’s Association. The sheriff’s comments don’t reflect the views of the people of Louisiana, nor do they accurately depict what’s happening with criminal justice reform.

It followed one of the most in-depth studies of a bipartisan task force looking into the state’s criminal justice system.  Task Force members included law enforcement, legislators, members of the state judiciary, as well as the business community. 

These are non-violent offenders. 

The House and Senate votes for S.B. 139 (the bill that includes changes to parole and good time) were not particularly close votes.  It had strong bipartisan support, and passed by 26-11 in the Senate, 75-30 in the House, and then 20-13 in the Senate concurrence.

The biggest point to make which many opponents fail to mention is that  nearly all of the releases are people who would have been released within a few months of November anyway.

These editorials from The Advocate and The Times Picayune can provide some insight into why this is an big issue for Louisiana.  You can also check out the national news coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Other states that made changes like these have seen both imprisonment and crime drop.  Some examples include:

  • Texas:  Since their 2007 reforms, the imprisonment rate is down 16%, and crime is down 30%.
  • South Carolina:  Since their 2010 reforms, their imprisonment rate is down 16%, and crime is down 16%.
  • North Carolina:  Since their 2011 reforms, their imprisonment rate is down 3% and crime is down 20%.
  • Georgia:  Since their 2012 reforms, their imprisonment rate is down 7% and crime is down 11%.

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