(WAFB) - Just over a year after criminal justice reform efforts became law in Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday afternoon that the results are better than expected.
“We are seeing results that are positive and promising,” Edwards said.
Joined by law enforcement leaders, he says in one year alone, reducing the prison population has resulted in more than $12 million in state savings. Five parishes, including Caddo, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, and East Baton Rouge, will see $8 million directly reinvested in reentry programs and services. “More than 40 percent of all the inmates in Louisiana come from and return to those parishes, so by concentrating our reentry efforts there, we can have the greatest impact,” said Edwards.
It’s an impact which makes good on a promise the governor made to help push the effort through the legislature, despite some early doubts.
“Early on in this stage two years ago, with all the different meetings we went to, we were surely skeptical,” said EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore.
The governor says those doubts have now been replaced with undeniable results. “This is a tremendous step forward and it’s also relief to a lot of people who know that over the years, the State of Louisiana didn’t always deliver when it came to reinvesting savings,” said Edwards.
The money will provide resources for recently released inmates to make sure they get out and stay out. Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc says it’s critical to ensure success. “It creates good programs, whether it’s thinking for a change, substance abuse, or whatever the case may be, or possibly housing or employment,” he said. “Those are the things that are the important things before you come back to a community that you need to make yourself successful.”
Law enforcement leaders say the programs will not just make prison reform successful, but will also help make communities safer as more inmates get a second chance.
“When an offender is successfully rehabilitated, the whole community wins,” said EBR Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
“I believe that this is really just the beginning of things to come,” said Moore.