Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana established the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to reform the criminal justice system in the state. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was created to reduce recidivism rates for nonviolent offenders and save the state more than $171 million over a 10-year period. Unfortunately, this reform is being challenged by ultra-conservative lawmakers, as they have set up a violent crime task force led by State Rep. Alan Seabaugh to scrutinize every aspect of the criminal reform package.
What the reform is designed to accomplish
In addition to saving the state of Louisiana significant money by keeping nonviolent offenders out of the penal system, efforts will be made to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders and low-level drug users to help them become productive members of society. Funds will also be set aside to help victims of crime recover. In addition to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, “Raise the Age” legislation that lawmakers approved is designed to move 17-year-old minors who have been accused of violent crimes out of adult courts and place them back into the juvenile justice system.
What can happen now?
Most of the 13-member violent crime task form is comprised of those who believe in being tough on crime. They are fighting to unravel all the reforms put in place, and this can have disastrous results because nonviolent offenders will not receive the rehabilitation they need, and jails and prisons will have more occupants. Lawmakers are also proposing to exclude some juvenile offenders from having confidential protection, and this can put them in danger. If these lawmakers are successful at unraveling any of these reforms, criminal defense lawyers will have an interesting fight on their hands to help their clients receive fair sentences because harsher sentences may be handed down, and there will be a rush to saddle defendants with the most significant charges possible.
Lawmakers who support reform along with victim advocates continue to fight for the justice system to be fairer. Proponents of reform want to see changes that will benefit all state citizens. This task force is scheduled to meet again on October 19.