If a package of pending bills aimed at reducing Louisiana's world-leading incarceration rate becomes law, it will be because politicians on the right and the left have found a sweet spot, a place where compassion, pragmatism and fiscal conservatism intersect.
If Louisiana takes a serious look at eliminating the death penalty during the upcoming legislative session, it will be because the same dynamics apply.
Two former law enforcement officials filed legislation to do away with the death penalty in …
The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty, although its leaders have never pushed the issue in this country the way they've gone after abortion rights. Around the United States, dramatic examples of post-conviction exoneration have cast grave doubt on the idea of imposing a punishment that can't be reversed.
The expert consensus is that the rarely applied penalty doesn't serve as a deterrent. Nor does it keep the community safer than the life sentences without parole that Louisiana imposes on those who've committed the most heinous crimes, and still will even if the criminal justice package passes.
It's expensive. Taxpayers foot the bill for housing the convicted, plus all the post-conviction legal maneuvering. The drugs used in the process are increasingly difficult to procure.
And the state rarely actually puts convicted felons to death, which raises the question of what the point is anyway.
The fact that two lawmakers with strong law enforcement credentials have filed bills to do away with the death penalty marks this as a serious undertaking. State Rep. Terry Landry, a New Iberia Democrat, is a former state police superintendent, and State Sen. Dan Claitor, a Baton Rouge Republican, was once a prosecutor in New Orleans under Harry Connick.
Unlike the sentencing measures at the heart of Gov. John Bel Edwards' package, there hasn't been much of a public debate over the death penalty here in recent years. Whatever their ultimate prospects, these bills are about to launch one.