Proposed bill would allow elderly inmates to file for parole

Published: Apr. 18, 2011 at 10:45 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 24, 2011 at 7:20 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana lawmakers will convene next week for the 2011 regular session.  More than 840 new pieces of legislation have been filed, from bills that keep the government running, to one that allows elderly inmates to apply for parole.

House Bill 138, filed by State Representative Pat Smith, would give inmates over the age of 60 the opportunity to apply for a hearing with the parole board - if they've already served 10 years of their sentence.

"The most important thing is to see how we can reduce the D.O.C. costs and be very active and proactive about it being smart on crime and I do believe we can be smart on crime," said Smith.

She cautions that the bill isn't a "Get out of jail free" card.  It's only an opportunity for the elderly inmates.

"The most important thing is it just makes them eligible to go before the parole board," added Smith  "It doesn't open the door and say, 'You can just walk out."  It says you'll have an opportunity to have a hearing."

This isn't the first time a bill like this has come before the legislature.  It's been defeated many times, but Smith says this time around, she has a couple of new allies.  The Bishops Conference and the ACLU have pledged their support for the bill.

"I think we got a lot of folk out there that have come out and said 'this is a good bill,'" said Smith.  "They would like to see it move forward. We'll see where it goes.  If not, we'll just be back next year when I'm re-elected."

The State District Attorney's Association has not taken a position on HB 138 yet.  But they do say it's on their radar.

The session begins Monday.

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