Louisiana recently witnessed a rare occurrence in today’s political environment: Democrats and Republicans joining arms to solve a critical issue facing our state. In June, a bipartisan group of lawmakers passed a comprehensive legislative package based on reforms with proven track records in dozens of other states. These measures will begin to address decades of failed policy choices that have resulted in higher costs, increased crime and the highest incarceration rate in the nation.
Under the new legislation, our prison population is expected to decline by 10 percent over the next decade, while saving taxpayers nearly $270 million. These savings, in turn, will be reinvested into programs that will reduce recidivism, provide victim support, improve workforce training and make our communities safer.
This bipartisan legislative achievement required tremendous legislative leadership. Rep. Walt Leger introduced the resolution that formed the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force (Task Force) and spearheaded the prison reform effort with many liberal and conservative activists, thought leaders and lawmakers. The Task Force provided legislators with the data, analysis and recommendations needed to develop smart, impactful policies.
A number of other legislative leaders worked to build broad-based support and ensure successful passage of the legislation. Among these leaders were Rep. Terry Landry, Rep. Tanner Magee, Rep. Joe Marino, Sen. John Alario, Sen. Danny Martiny and Sen. Dan Claitor. The reforms were also driven by a broad coalition of business and faith-based leaders, including Louisiana Family Forum President Rev. Gene Mills, Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux. After extensive analysis, an overwhelming majority of state legislators came to an agreement: Louisiana can and will be smarter on crime.
The work of this diverse and talented group has set the foundation for a vastly improved criminal justice system in Louisiana. Still, much work remains; we must protect and effectively implement these policies, continue to work to reverse decades of underperforming policies and incorporate proven, sensible reforms to reduce costs and reduce crime.
co-founders, Smart on Crime Louisiana