After much sniping about what’s a tweak and what’s a rollback, the various sides in the battle over a sheaf of legislation that would change last year’s criminal justice overhaul are coming to an agreement, say participants in the negotiations.
Legislators from the House and the Senate, judges, prosecutors, inmate support groups and others have been meeting to hash out their differences. The latest meeting was in the governor’s office Thursday afternoon.
“I would say we’re getting close,” said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge and chairman of the Senate committee that will hear the legislation.
Rep. Joe Marino III, No Party-Gretna, and Pete Adams, head of the Louisiana District Attorneys’ Association, agreed with that assessment.
Opponents viewed last week’s Louisiana House vote, which overwhelmingly approved extending probation terms, as a shot across the bow in the at…
The parties are working through the particulars on how to structure the awarding of “earned compliance credits,” which knocks time off of a prison term for completing treatment programs and other activities.
They’re also looking at details for ensuring that restitution is paid to victims without keeping people on probation until the debt is cleared.
And they’re coming to an agreement on allowing judges more discretion to extend the length of probation past the three-year limit in the law now, for those who haven’t finished the programs and other terms of their sentence.
Some thought has been given to putting all the changes, once the details are agreed upon, into a single bill that would require a single up or down vote.
About a dozen bills are moving through the process to change the Justice Reinvestment package that overhauled Louisiana’s criminal justice system. Half of those measures have caused the most debate, sometimes bitter, over whether the changes go too far.
With the support of many Democrats and Republicans, businessmen and clergy, last year’s package of 10 bills changed the way the state sentences offenders by diverting criminals into rehabilitative programs. The effect is to reduce prison time for nonviolent offenders in a state that leads the world in imprisoning its own citizens.
Louisiana expects to reduce prison populations by 10 percent and save at least $262 million over the next decade, thereby cutting into the $625 million taxpayers spend annually on adult corrections. About $184 million of that amount would go to train inmates, drug rehabilitation, and other programs to help them adjust to the outside world, as well as for victims services and law enforcement, which will lower crime and reduce recidivism.