LA Panel Chair Would Water Down Criminal Justice Reform

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Louisiana Rep. Sherman Mack will be proposing significant changes to legislation meant to shorten criminal sentences that are the linchpin of a criminal justice reform package aimed at reducing Louisiana’s incarceration rate, which leads the nation, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Mack, a Republican, chairs the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice. Three pending bills would shorten prison sentences as well as parole and probation periods mostly for nonviolent offenders that have been convicted of drug charges, property theft and other crimes like stealing cars. People who commit some violent crimes for the first time — though not murder or rape — would also be able to get an earlier release.

Some provisions apply retroactively to nonviolent offenders who are already in prison. That means inmates currently behind bars would be entitled to an earlier release and shorter parole and probation periods than they had originally been given. Mack wants to remove retroactivity. He also wants to drop changes that could shorten sentences for first-time inmates convicted of violent offenses. “The victim was told they would do a certain amount of time,” Mack said. Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc has said he would release an additional 1,100 nonviolent offenders between November and next July, if the current criminal justice package is approved.

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