Terione Williams was out of jail for only 11 days when, police say, he was shot and killed while attempting to rob another man at gunpoint Tuesday in the Glen Oaks neighborhood.
On Wednesday night, the Williams case was brought up as an example of how the state needs to better rehabilitate individuals, especially young ones, in the criminal justice system.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome sought to calm fears and reassure residents on Wednesda…
This comment was made during a two-hour town hall meeting held by a task force of top state officials who will make recommendations to the legislature next month about what needs to change in Louisiana’s criminal justice system.
An estimated 200 people showed up at the meeting.
State leaders created the Justice Reinvestment Task Force in June 2016 to find ways to reduce the state's prison population as well as the costs of operating them while keeping the public safe.
The task force is to analyze what's driving the high incarceration rate in the state, review practices in other states and find the best research in the field on what works to change criminal offending, and gather input from those who work on the front lines.
Louisiana’s incarceration rate is the highest in the U.S. and double the national average. If Louisiana could match the statistics of the second highest, Oklahoma, then the state could save nearly $90 million a year, said state Supreme Court Deputy General Counsel Alanah Hebert, who moderated the event.
Speakers made specific suggestions such as abolishing life sentences without parole for juveniles, removing certain charges from the violent offense list, such as stalking and aggravated flight from an officer, and even eliminating the bail system.
Many more spoke of the importance of education and re-entry programs.
Lou Sullivan was sentenced to life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in 1973 when he was 17, but received a pardon last year from Gov. John Bel Edwards. Sullivan spoke about his experience learning to read and write in prison, working as a trusty in the governor’s mansion and getting his GED.
As a “lifer,” he said, he needed to wait 20 years in prison before having access to the educational programming. He recommended more such opportunities for other offenders.
Rita Stybe Martin discussed how she graduated from college and is pursuing her master’s degree since her release from state prison after 10 years of incarceration.
She said that almost didn’t happen when college applications asked about criminal history, admitting she lied on her second attempt to gain admission. Martin pushed for the removal of those questions from college applications.
Many more simply reminded others in the room to think of offenders as individuals as people and not just a number.
“It’s not just a bucket of water that you just pour out. Every drop is not the same,” said Kerry Myers, who served 27 years in Angola and was released in December. “You have to remember that these people were your neighbors, sons, sisters.”