BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards has released a statement following the passage of several criminal justice reform bill from his legislative agenda.
"The passage of these criminal justice reform bills marks an important step in our work to safely reduce the state's highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate," said Edwards. "It's time to start getting a better return on our investment when it comes to public safety because we have been hemorrhaging money on a system with a very high failure rate for too long. When high failure means more victims and few re-entry opportunities, it is on us to do better by the people who we were elected to serve. Today's good news means we are on the way to doing just that."
If adopted into law, the governor's agenda would reduce the state's prison population by percent and save taxpayers $262 million over the next ten years.
Of that $262 million, around $184 million will be reinvested into programs that will work to reduce crime and victimization by expanding prison alternatives, fund programs in parish jails and the community that reduce re-offending, and build up services to support victims of crime. These measures aim to ensure Louisiana will no longer have the highest imprisonment rate in the country.
The following bills in the governor's reform plan passed the House Administration of Criminal Justice committee on Wednesday:
- SB 139 - Expands alternatives to incarceration, streamlines parole release, expands incentives for inmates to participate in recidivism reducing programs, etc.
- SB 220 and SB 221 - Together, these bills revise drug penalties to target longer sentences on higher level drug offenders, consolidate laws on property crimes, and raise the value threshold for felony charges, reduce and eliminate certain mandatory minimum sentences, and reduce habitual offender penalties.
The following bills passed the House floor Tuesday:
- HB 116 - Improves and streamlines the victim notification process.
- HB 117 - Eliminates the restriction for those with drug convictions from receiving food stamps and other aid during their first year of release.
- HB 249 - Tailors criminal justice financial obligations to a person’s ability to pay and modifies penalties for failure to pay.
- HB 489 - Provides for the reinvestment of savings realized as a result of criminal justice reforms and requires the collection of certain data and information in this regard.
- HB 519 - Expands opportunities for those offenders reentering the community to earn full occupational licenses.