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71 prisoners released locally
from The Concordia Sentinel
December 7, 2017 -

Seventy-one prisoners have been released from Concordia Parish since November as a result of prison reform legislation approved by the Legislature this year.

Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy David Hedrick said that 98 percent of the prisoners released were serving time on drug and alcohol charges.

Hedrick said he and Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick “definitely have fears concerning the release of these prisoners. Some of the offenders were originally charged with violent crimes but have pled guilty to lesser crimes or were found guilty of lesser crimes.

“Putting some of these people back on the street is terribly worrisome. It makes our jobs as police officers more difficult. These people were in jail for a reason.”

The Louisiana Department of Correction (DOC) says the Legislature’s approval of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Package will reduce the prison population by 10 percent and save $262 million over the next decade.

DOC says 70 percent of these savings – an estimated $184 million – will be reinvested into programs and policies “proven to reduce recidivism and support victims of crime. It is also projected to reduce the community supervision population by 12 percent, making caseload sizes more manageable for probation and parole officers.”

The legislation drew criticism from U.S. Sen. John Kennedy last week: “Regardless of what you think about the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act, I have zero confidence in the ability of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to administer it in a way that protects the people of Louisiana from violent criminals.”

On June 15, Governor John Bel Edwards signed the legislation into law. His office called the package the most comprehensive criminal justice reform in the state’s history. The 10-bill package focused on inmates serving sentences for non-violent, non-sex offenses.

Edwards said the law is designed to reduce the amount of “our state’s scarce resources spent on incarceration, decrease prison terms for those who can be safely supervised in the community, and remove barriers to successful re-entry through increased supervision and rehabilitation programming.”

“The reforms should allow Louisiana to shed its status as the state with the nation’s highest imprisonment rate by the end of 2018,” Edwards said. “We were spending nearly $700 million a year on prison beds, and still 1 in 3 people released were coming back to prison within a few years. The state projects that the measures will reduce the prison and community supervision populations by 10 and 12 percent, respectively, over 10 years and avoid $262 million in spending. The reforms mandate that 70% of the savings be reinvested.”

The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, a bipartisan group comprised of law enforcement, court practitioners, community members, and legislators, found that Louisiana’s corrections system was producing low public safety returns at high costs.


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