Savings from criminal justice reform exceed expectations

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
John Bel Edwards

Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C) released the first report outlining savings from criminal justice reform measures passed by the legislature in 2017. The savings, according to the report, have exceeded Pew Charitable Trusts' projections. Savings for fiscal year 2018 totaled $12.2 million, doubling Pew’s original projections of $6.1 million. Click here to view the report.

“In 2017, Republicans, Democrats and Independents came together to rethink our criminal justice system,” said Gov. Edwards. “We knew what we were doing just wasn’t working and it was costing us more money. By following the lead of other southern, conservative states, we passed a package of 10 bills that will improve public safety and reduce recidivism. This initial report is welcomed news. Just as we’re beginning to reinvest in reentry programs, these savings will give so many people a new lease on life. These reforms are exceeding our expectations in a positive way, and in the long run, our people will be safer and taxpayer dollars will be spent more wisely on more violent offenders. I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to ensure these efforts are successful.”

“This is great news for the state of Louisiana,” said James M. Le Blanc, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. “Our goal and our mission with criminal justice reform is to reinvest money we would usually pay for incarceration into programs aimed at better preparing our returning citizens and individuals on probation and parole, and to help victims of crime.”

Last summer, Governor Edwards signed into law a package of 10 Justice Reinvestment bills. The new laws are anticipated to save the state more than $262 million over the next decade, and mandate 70 percent of the savings be reinvested into programs to reduce recidivism and support victims.

DP&C Strategic Investments: The Department currently intends to use first-year reinvestment funding in support of the following priorities:

  • Increasing programming for state inmates housed at local jails;

  • Enhancing and expanding Regional Reentry Centers;

  • Increasing Probation and Parole staffing and Day Reporting Centers;

  • Launching a Transitional Housing pilot program;

  • Opening a new Reception Center to conduct assessments for new inmates; and

  • Expanding Specialty Courts.

Grants to Community-Based Services: With the goal of ensuring this funding is spent in the most effective and transparent way possible, DPS&C has created a Community Incentive Grant Program and has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP is intended to elicit proposals from qualified community organizations that are interested in enhancing or expanding coordination of reentry services and community supports to increase prison alternatives and reduce recidivism. Funding will be awarded in the fall of 2018.

Grants to Support Victims’ Services: Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement (LCLE) currently intends to use first-year reinvestment funding in support of the following priorities:

  • Supplementing the Crime Victims’ Reparations Fund;

  • Establishing a new Family Justice Center in East Baton Rouge Parish;

  • Improving electronic notifications for victims by developing an electronic system that will interface with all 64 parish clerks of court; and

  • Providing funding to the Louisiana Bureau of Investigations for a dedicated forensics server for their Cybercrimes Unit.

Prior to the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) legislation, Louisiana was leading the nation in imprisonment, with a rate nearly double the national average. The state was also sending people to prison for nonviolent offenses at 1.5 to 3 times the rate of other Southern states with similar crime rates. The policy choices that led to this situation were costing the state nearly $700 million annually on corrections, but one in three inmates released from prison returned there within three years.

Contributed by the Office of the Governor