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From left, Governor John Bel Edwards shakes hands with Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, joined by District Attorney Hillar Moore, following a press conference where grant money, savings from criminal justice reforms were announced to be reallocated, Wednesday, October 17, 2018, Baton Rouge, La.

Support for Louisiana's criminal justice reforms is growing in the state, a new LSU poll has found, especially among Republicans and Independents. 

The reforms garnered 70 percent support among Louisiana residents in the fifth of six reports from the 2019 Louisiana Survey. That's a jump from 61 percent in 2018. 

Louisiana lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards passed several pieces of legislation in 2017 aimed at reducing the state's then-highest incarceration rate in the nation. That was achieved mostly by releasing nonviolent, non-sex offenders from prison sooner. 

A growing share of Louisiana Republicans, up 14 percentage points from last year, and Independents, up 12 percentage points, support the state's reforms, the LSU survey found. 

Still, few Louisiana residents believe the criminal justice system is fair or effective at keeping communities safe, the poll shows. About a third of residents agree the current criminal justice system in Louisiana is fair, while 55% don't believe it is effective at keeping people safe. 

The survey, conducted by the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication, polled 917 Louisianans from Feb. 15 to March 7, and has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points. 

Edwards touted the survey results in a statement Tuesday, calling the reforms proof of "the good that can happen when we come together and put people over politics." 

“That is exactly what happened in 2017 when I signed into law the historic reform legislation that happened because of strong support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents," he said. "In addition to losing our title as the incarceration capital of the nation, the first year of our efforts have yielded promising results, including doubling the projected savings." 

The poll found strong support for drug treatment and rehab programs as well as shortening prison sentences for some crimes. Around 65 percent support judges having flexibility in sentencing. 


Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.