Louisiana has launched major prison reforms with the release about 1,400 inmates who were serving time for non-violent and non-sex offenses, reported the KLFY Newsroom.
The releases on Nov. 1 came after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a package of 10 criminal justice reforms to reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent. The reforms will scale back the parole/probation population by 12 percent over the next decade, according to KLFY.
“Ninety-five percent of people who are incarcerated will ultimately return to our communities,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is an entity that is part of Louisianans for Prison Alternatives (LPA). “It is in everyone’s interest for them to succeed upon release. To ensure that happens, we must provide a support system to facilitate success, prevent recidivism, and protect public safety.”
Under the reforms, prisoners can earn 5 percent more in “good time” credit toward release. Previously prisoners were eligible for release after serving 40 percent of their sentences; now it’s 35 percent, reported KLFY.
Now people are being released an average of eight weeks earlier than their projected release date under the prior policy.
The reforms required a pre-release curriculum and reentry programming for all individuals eligible for release.
“Probation and parole officers are prepared,” reported KLFY. “Their caseloads will rebalance within six months as additional reforms – those that will allow individuals to earn compliance credit and terminate their supervision early – go into effect.”
Louisiana hopes to save $262 million by reducing the number of people in prison and the length of their sentences. Reportedly 70 percent of the savings the state will reinvested into programs to improve public safety by preventing crime and reducing recidivism.
“The Department of Corrections already releases approximately 1,500 inmates per month; about the same number of people who would have been released in two months will now be released in one,” the article said.
The changes were supported by the LPA coalition; SPLC; American Civil Liberties Union; and Voice of the Experienced, a grassroots organization of formerly incarcerated people. These efforts led to the appointment of a task force and the passage of reforms based on its recommendations.