Lawmakers set new goals for criminal justice reform in 2019

Lawmakers set criminal justice reform goals for 2019

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Members of the Justice Reinvestment Implementation Oversight Council discussed and set goals Friday for criminal justice reform in 2019, including ways to expand and implement the state’s re-entry programs.

Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc says the state will look to expand programming to “tier two” parishes that fall outside the five largest metro areas responsible for a large portion of the state’s crime, allowing the state to transfer some prisoners to jails closer to their homes. LeBlanc says the state will focus its attention on prisoners with less than two years remaining on their sentence.

“The high risk, high needs folks are the ones that are coming back,” LeBlanc said. “Those are the ones that are returning to our communities that are giving us the most problems with crime.”

Council members say the state’s “mammoth challenge” is tailoring re-entry programs to fit each of the 32,000 individuals who are still incarcerated.

“That is taking the public education system in Louisiana, putting it behind bars, and expecting [the Department of Corrections] to do what the schools have not been able to do,” said 22nd District Judge Rusty Knight, adding that raising a prisoner’s reading level by four grades can reduce recidivism odds by 4 percent.

The council noted the state will eventually need to construct new reception centers and facilities to house prisoners during re-entry training, although that money will probably not become available in 2019.

LeBlanc says he does not expect major legislative changes to the criminal justice system to come during this legislative session, which begins in April.

“People are going to get out,” said Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia. “If they get out without the tools, then all the money we spend is not going to be worth anything.”

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