Justice Reinvestment Task Force
Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force was created to study the state’s criminal justice system and recommend strategic changes to get more public safety for each dollar spent. The inter-branch, bipartisan panel of experts found that, with the highest imprisonment rate in the United States, annual corrections spending at two-thirds of a billion dollars, and high recidivism rates, Louisiana’s taxpayers are not getting a good public safety return on investment.
Examining practices in states like Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and others that have adopted data-driven policy changes, the task force now recommends that Louisiana lawmakers adopt a comprehensive set of reforms to improve the performance of its criminal justice system. The reforms would ensure consistency in sentencing, focus prison beds on those who pose a serious threat to public safety, strengthen community supervision, clear away barriers to successful reentry, and reinvest a substantial portion of the savings into evidence-backed programs and prison alternatives and services that support victims of crime.
Click here to read the task force's full report.
Overview of Task Force Recommendations
Ensure Clarity and Consistency in Sentencing
- Implement a felony class system to reduce uncertainty in sentencing and release.
- Simplify the criminal code to create transparency for prosecutors, defense counsel, judges and victims.
- Increase equity by making back-end release mechanisms retroactive for those convicted of nonviolent offenses.
- Improve the victim registration and notification process.
Focus Prison Beds on Those Who Pose a Serious Threat to Public Safety
- Expand alternatives to incarceration.
- Revise drug penalties to target higher-level drug offenses.
- Consolidate laws on property crimes and raise the value threshold for felony charges.
- Distinguish penalties for illegal possession of a weapon based on the type of underlying felony.
- Reduce the window of time for which certain prior crimes count toward habitual offender penalty enhancements.
- Establish a temporary furlough policy for inmates with serious medical needs.
- Change parole eligibility laws for life sentences imposed for crimes committed as juveniles.
- Streamline parole release for those who are compliant with case plans and institutional rules.
Strengthen Community Supervision
- Focus community supervision on the highest-risk period by reducing maximum probation terms and establishing an earned compliance credit incentive.
- Improve the process for responding to violations of probation and parole conditions with swift, certain and proportional sanctions.
Clear Away Barriers to Successful Reentry
- Eliminate certain collateral consequences of felony convictions that create barriers to reentry.
- Tailor criminal justice financial obligations to a person’s ability to pay.
- Modify penalties for failure to pay criminal justice financial obligations.
- Suspend child support payments during incarceration.
- Expand incentives for inmates to participate in high-skilled workforce development and recidivism reduction programming.
- Expand eligibility period for Transitional Work Programs and increase take-home pay.
Reinvest a Substantial Portion of the Savings
- Reinvest over $154 million dollars saved from lowering the prison population into research-based programs that reduce recidivism and services that support victims of crime.
Impact of the Recommendations
The task force’s consensus recommendations would avert the projected growth in the number of prisoners in Louisiana and bend the prison population downward, for an overall reduction in the prison population of 13 percent (4,817 prison beds) by 2027. This decline in the number of prisoners would save Louisiana taxpayers $305 million over the next ten years. Savings in FY2018 alone would exceed $9 million. The recommendations would reinvest over half of the savings — $154 million — into research-based programs that reduce recidivism and services that support victims of crime.
The recommendations would also reduce the community supervision population by 16 percent (11,421 people) by 2027, compared to the projected population absent reform. Assuming Division of Probation and Parole staffing levels remain constant, this drop in the community supervision population would reduce average caseload sizes from 139 to 113 cases per officer.