Louisiana leaders disagree on how to handle the state’s nation-leading inmate population as the threat of a coronavirus outbreak looms at prisons and jails, reports WDSU-TV in New Orleans. A day after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry advised Gov. John Bel Edwards against releasing prisoners, the chief judge of the state’s highest court urged state judges to work with lawyers and sheriffs to release some pretrial and other inmates. Landry described the potential of a “crime wave” caused by the release of prisoners. He said, “Law enforcement resources are not in a position to be monitoring prisoners who have been released, or handling even a minor uptick in criminal activity as as a result thereof.
Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson said an outbreak of the virus within local lockups could be “potentially catastrophic.” She advised all state district judges they should “safely minimize” jail populations “where possible.” She asked judges to reexamine jailed people’s cases to determine if they could qualify for even temporary release. Criminal justice advocates, public defenders and family members of inmates have called for the release of those incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, those whose sentences are nearly served or the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. A Friday state corrections update shows 10 state prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus, along with 17 prison workers.