More La. prisoners to be released early under new state law than first estimated

More La. prisoners to be released early under new state law than first estimated

(WAFB) - About 1,900 Louisiana prisoners could be released earlier than expected under a new state law, according to new data from the Department of Corrections (DOC). That's up from the roughly 1,500 inmates originally estimated by the corrections secretary.

Those inmates will be eligible for release on Wednesday, November 1.

A spokesman for DOC says staff has been going through databases every day to determine which inmates are eligible for early release. As a result, he says hundreds have been added to the list. Most of the inmates were convicted in just a few parishes: 164 in Caddo, 139 in Orleans, and 139 in Jefferson.

In the capital region, East Baton Rouge Parish leads the pack with 128 convictions. Seventy-six were convicted in Livingston and 23 were convicted in Ascension.

The early release is part of criminal justice reforms passed by the state legislature earlier this year, shortening sentences for those described as "non-violent." Those bills found widespread and bipartisan support.

Looking through the criminal histories of those in EBR Parish, many were put behind bars for drug offenses and theft-related crimes. In a few cases, assistant district attorneys chose to not pursue charges of battery or possession of a firearm.

Corrections Sec. Jimmy LeBlanc says the public should not be concerned. "Could something happen? Certainly. Something can happen. I pray it doesn't, but it was probably going to happen anyway," he said.

How early will those prisoners be released? Data from the department indicates about 22 percent will be walking less than a month ahead of schedule. In fact, at least 15 are being released just one day sooner than initially planned. All told, roughly half will get out less than three months early.

There are some exceptions though. A handful will see their time in prison cut down by years. However, a spokesman for the department says those prisoners are still not considered to be violent offenders.

"If we don't do it here, I don't know when you do it. I don't know how you move in the right direction," LeBlanc said, defending the reforms.

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