Inmates jailed for longer than 180 days could waive their child support obligations under a proposed law intended to reduce recidivism by alleviating financial burdens for people who are incarcerated. 

House Bill 426, by state Rep. Joe Marino, No party-Gretna, received bipartisan support in its first hearing in a house committee Tuesday and was advanced to the full House without opposition. 

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The proposed law is one of 10 measures that make up a comprehensive criminal justice reform package, backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, which intends to reduce the prison population and curb recidivism. The legislation took form from recommendations made by a task force who met for about a year. One of the suggestions was to alleviate financial burdens on inmates, who have no income, so when they are released they have a better chance of acclimating. 

"When you have a large financial burden sitting over your head when you leave jail, it increases your chances of not making it when you're on the outside," Marino said. "When someone is incarcerated, unless they have work release, their actual earnings go to zero. What we're trying to do is recognize that they have zero income and it's not voluntary unemployment."

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Marino's bill does include some exceptions where an inmate would not quality for the relief. For example, if the inmate is in jail for failure to pay child support or for an offense on the custodial parent such as domestic abuse, then he or she would still be required to pay.

If an inmate has the financial means to pay child support because of other streams of income or wealth, then a judge would also be able to ensure the child support payments continue. 

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