Despite a political consensus favoring change, meaningful reform of Louisiana’s lock-’em-up sentencing laws will not come easy, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Prompted by the governor, the long-dormant state Sentencing Commission produced a package of five bills aimed at tackling some of the key factors driving the state’s highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate. But bills were passed and signed by the governor, but only after the parts that would have actually reduced prison sentences were removed under pressure from sheriffs and district attorneys.
Two more proposals from the commission have progressed smoothly through the Legislature this year, but they, too, are unlikely to have a substantial effect on the incarceration rate. Even under dire financial circumstances, the political calculus in Louisiana has evolved slowly since a series of tough sentencing laws in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s bloated the state’s inmate counts. “The three easiest votes for a legislator are against taxes, against gambling and to put someone in jail for the rest of their lives,” said state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, a veteran policymaker who has led the judiciary committees in both the House and Senate.