Critics of our criminal justice reform are consistently misleading the public, trying to make it look like we released a crime wave on the streets of Louisiana’s cities. It just isn’t so. One writer said we are putting the public at risk by granting early releases. That’s just fear-mongering. Under no circumstances would I risk the safety of the community where I live with my family and where my children are now raising my grandchildren.
Besides, most of these people were released only 60 days earlier than their normal release date. I have 30 years law enforcement experience — as a city police officer, police chief at Baton Rouge Community College and Southern University, and 27 years with the Louisiana State Police — including being appointed superintendent of State Police by Gov. Mike Foster from 2000 to2004. My record of commitment to public safety is clear.
After decades of working in enforcement, I’ve seen the pitfalls and unintended consequences caused by over-incarceration. It has destroyed families and created generational criminals. If we hadn’t done anything to break this trend, it would have only continued. Thanks to the people of my community, I now serve as an elected policymaker and have the opportunity to help make a real difference.No one has the expectation that with this reform crime is going to fall off the radar. We have a lot of work to do in the areas of prevention, rehabilitation and re-entry. Mental health problems are a big factor in our state’s high incarceration rate. Sadly, Gov. Bobby Jindal systematically dismantled our mental health institutions. Now, people with mental problems are being sent to our jails, which are ill-equipped to address the kinds of problems plaguing many of those who turn to a life of crime.
Due to Gov. John Bel Edwards and the bipartisan support that made Louisiana’s historic criminal justice reform possible, we are seeing a change. It’s true that 72 of the 1,900 who gained early release in November have been arrested again and a few committed violent crimes. But it is also true that more than 1,800 are living respectable lives and obeying the laws we all live by. Crime is not going away.
Critics say our Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force and the state lawmakers who approved these reforms only did so to save money. That’s not true. Yes, we’re hoping to cut costs by not paying more to keep minor offenders behind bars than it would cost to send them to college.
More importantly, though, we’re putting more JUSTICE in criminal justice.