Do you see the guy over there crouched near the streetlight? Oh, do you see the guy leaning on his car looking at his smartphone?
And no doubt you’ve heard that Mrs. Roux has been sitting near her phone (Mrs. Roux is about 70 years old and prefers her regular phone) poised to make a call.
They are all waiting to hear that a crime has been committed by one of the state inmates released weeks early from state and parish prisons as part of newly implemented criminal justice reforms.
OK, I made up all that previous stuff. But there are folks and media outlets chomping at the bit to report that first story of an inmate released under the new guidelines who commits another crime. I can’t imagine how many bold headlines and click bait will be on display if that happens.
The newly released prisoners were guilty of nonviolent and non-sex-related crimes. In fact, some of those people might have been booked on felonies that were later bargained down to lesser charges. But, wait, it’s the district attorneys who bargained down those charges, right?
State prosecutors are raising alarms about a legislative audit that found the system used to…
Folks are waiting for 34-year-old Alex Woods to be arrested for a fourth time, and he knows it. Woods has done federal time on a gun charge, burglary and heroin possession. He was let out of the Madison Parish Correctional Institution on Wednesday after being there since May of 2016.
He caught a ride on a Greyhound Bus and met his mom in Baton Rouge on Wednesday evening.
“I can’t do it no more,” he said about the possibility of returning to prison. He said his mother is “getting up in age” and he wants to “be there for her” now. He is also engaged to be married, he said.
Brian Fallen walked out of a parole office in New Orleans on Wednesday with a mesh bag full …
He describes himself as a professional cook and someone who has worked at several car dealerships. “I can work hard,” he said.
That part struck me. If you have worked hard, why didn’t you continue doing that when you were out? Woods said, “You see people make more money than you” and that encouraged him to do crimes to make more money. “I was trying to make it fast,” he said.
I am pulling for these newly freed men and women like Woods to do the right thing. I hope there are businesses willing to hire them. I hope that many of them will get into job-training programs. I hope churches and outreach groups will encourage them to step through the door for help. More, importantly I hope that a majority of those released will make that decision on their own.
But this is not a perfect world. Life is down and dirty, and mistakes are made. I guess some in the Louisiana Legislature believed that having this state recognized as, per capita, having the largest penal colony in the world wasn’t something we wanted on our welcome mat.
This new attack on Louisiana’s incarceration rate, led by Gov. John Bel Edwards along with bipartisan support in the Legislature, is supposed to save the state millions of dollars and drop Louisiana from one of the most shameful lists in the world.
I do agree somewhat with East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, who said there has not been a lot of help extended to help the inmates prepare for life on the outside. That was already the case for the 1,500 that are regularly released each month from state custody.
Corrections officials say that inmates in their facilities have been provided some sort of help in preparing for life beyond bars. However, in the parish-run jails that have small budgets, inmates have often been in little more than “lock ‘em-up and feed 'em” facilities.
That begs the question: Why aren’t we introducing those parish inmates to vocational opportunities? If the purpose of jail is only to punish, then we are not doing anything to reduce our crime problem.
A little side note that got my attention is the racial breakdown of those getting early releases. While 66 percent of the state prison population is African-American, 57 percent of those who got the early releases are African Americans.
Obviously, there are a lot of variables involved, such as who commits the more serious crimes, but it seems like the percentage of those given the releases should have more closely reflected the general inmate population. Or, it could be that African-Americans are just getting longer sentences for similar crimes.
Woods promised that he is not returning to jail. He also said it “would be like someone stabbing me in the back” if he heard that someone from his release group was quickly rearrested for committing a crime.
Woods promised me that I will not be writing another column about him being arrested. He said he wants to get married, have a family and be there for his mom.
As a former reporter, I’ve interviewed inmates with Woods’ story, and then bad things happen. I want him and the others to at least show an 80 percent success rate. I hope that’s not asking too much.
Good luck, Alex Woods.