The state’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force made its formal proposal, which is expected to be introduced as a package of criminal justice reform legislation this spring. Louisiana has the world’s highest incarceration rate, 816 for every 100,000 residents as of 2015.
A Louisiana justice reform task force is divided over reforms that would allow parole eligibility for older, long-term inmates and those sent to prison for life as juveniles. Recommendations to Gov. John Bel Edwards are due in two weeks.
The reform efforts of the state’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force are likely to focus initially on alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders. The concept apparently is gaining traction with Louisiana Republicans.
The state’s legislative auditor cites ways to save a total of $170 million by shifting 9,000 cases to drug courts, allowing judges to put more drug offenders on probation and in “community programming.”
A review of Louisiana homicide and death penalty cases going back to 1976 found that convicted murderers who killed black males were less likely to be executed than those who killed other victims, according to a study forthcoming in the Loyola University of New Orleans Journal of Public Interest Law. The data analyzed by the study authors, Frank Baumgartner and Tim Lyman, demonstrate what they conclude are stark disparities in the use of the death penalty, depending on the race and gender of the victim. “Young black males have extremely high rates of homicide victimization compared to other categories,” the authors write. “However, the death penalty is used only very rarely in those cases where the victim is a black male.” The study found that the rate of capital punishment per homicide gradually declines from white females to white males, to black females, and finally to black males—who make up 61 percent of all homicide victims in Louisiana.
As Louisiana winds down commemorative activities for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Executive Director Gina Womack and Statewide Juvenile Justice Director Ernest Johnson of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children say they’re still monitoring—and trying to curb—the disproportionate expulsions of black children in New Orleans’ schools.