BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A total of 116 Louisiana inmates who are serving life sentences have now been deemed eligible for a parole hearing under a state law passed earlier this year, the Louisiana Department of Corrections said Thursday.
The number of eligible inmates could rise by as much as seven as reviews of inmate case files are still being conducted.
The change in state law does not guarantee these inmates will be released, only that they can now request a parole hearing when they could not before.
The legislation by Senator Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, only applies to people were convicted between 1995 and 2001 under an older version of the "three-strikes, you're out" law. Back then, a person convicted of any three felonies faced a life sentence without the possibility of parole. That law was changed in 2001 to only apply to those convicted of three violent felony crimes.
"These people got caught in the middle," Martiny said Thursday. "I didn't lessen the sentence, it's still a life sentence. I just gave them the opportunity for a parole hearing. It doesn't stop the warden from showing up and saying 'this is a bad guy and he shouldn't be paroled.' It just gives them a little light at the end of the tunnel."
The legislation also alters a previous requirement that required both the governor and the pardon board to approve the hearing request. Now, Louisiana's Committee on Parole has the sole authority over these particular requests.
The first of the 116 inmates eligible to request a parole hearing has a hearing set for December 19 in Baton Rouge.