Public Safety in Louisiana
Louisiana, which has the nation’s highest incarceration rate, enacted legislation in June 2015 to control its prison population and reduce spending. The bill, H.B. 161, which passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate before being signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal (R), limits long prison stays for repeat violations of parole. Lawmakers also kicked off a broader evaluation of the state corrections system by passing H.R. 82 to establish the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force. The bipartisan, interbranch panel will undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice system and deliver policy recommendations to lawmakers by March 1, 2017.
"These reforms will help make our criminal justice system operate more efficiently while also continuing to uphold our number one priority: protecting our communities and families from violence."Governor Bobby Jindal
The new task force represents the latest effort by Louisiana lawmakers to address the state’s high incarceration rate. In 2011 and 2012, Gov. Jindal signed legislation to simplify the calculation of “good time” and earned time credits that promote the rehabilitation of lower-level offenders; expand parole eligibility for first- and second-time offenders; allow waiver of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders if the prosecutor, defense counsel, and judge agree; authorize administrative sanctions for parole and probation violations; and expand re-entry courts for offenders returning to the community from prison. These steps were projected to save Louisiana more than $243 million over 10 years.
Further, in 2007, state lawmakers unanimously approved legislation that set a 90-day limit on the incarceration of those whose probation or parole was revoked for a first-time violation of the rules of their supervision. After assessing the effects of the 2007 reforms, Pew concluded in a 2014 report that offenders subject to the 90-day incarceration cap were 22 percent less likely to return to prison for a new crime than were inmates who served considerably longer time behind bars for a first-time technical violation. In addition to maintaining public safety, the revocation cap saved prison space, resulting in net annual savings to taxpayers of $17.6 million.