EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - District Attorney Hillar Moore is pushing for a complete overhaul of the current justice system in the Baton Rouge area, saying it's all outdated. The new idea, however, is a costly one in the short term, but long term, Moore says it could save money.
"We need to change the way we have our system set up and I think it is time for us to do it," said Moore.
Moore wants to start the process by putting a prosecutor, a public defender, and magistrate at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. They would all work full-time in 8-hour shifts, with the hope of having someone working 24/7.
The prosecutor and public defender would start working with an offender from the moment they walk into the prison. Currently, a judge may not have access to an offender's criminal history before setting a bond. Under Moore's proposed plan, they would take the offender's criminal history or family and work situations so the judge is informed prior to setting a bond.
"It's not only cutting down on what we would think is a little bond, it's what maybe judges don't know before they set a bond. Also, it is about setting a bond where it let someone go," said Moore.
Or in the case of misdemeanors, they will examine each case and if the offender does not pose a public safety risk, they can be released.
"The idea is now to reduce the prison population, particularly with misdemeanor offenders, and then we can bring back all those offenders who we house out of parish to the tune of $8 million a year," said Moore.
All of this would help speed up the process for the district attorney's office. Currently, it can take up to two to four weeks before the DA's office gets the case of an offender. That's actually an improvement since they now have electronic reports. When they waited on an actual file, it was four to six weeks. But Moore says they need to cut down on the two to four week time frame as well.
"Right now, we do not have swift and certain justice. We have delayed justice and delayed justice is not good for anyone," said Moore.
To get this up and running, Moore estimates the starting cost at $500,000. That would include the manpower, perhaps building a modular building at the prison because of overcrowding, and a risk assessment program on offenders. Moore says they're in the process of applying for gr ants to cover the cost.
Moore and some of his staff are hoping to visit Stockton, California, where a similar program is already in place, within the next two months.