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Louisiana to release 1,400 prisoners Nov. 1 as part of governor's criminal justice reform package

Posted October 12

— About 1,400 people serving time for nonviolent, non-sex offenses will be released from Louisiana prisons Nov. 1.

It's part of a criminal justice reform legislative package that Gov. John Bel Edwards signed earlier this year to reduce Louisiana's prison population by 10 percent and scale down the parole/probation population by 12 percent over the next decade.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this package will save the state $270 million, 70 percent of which will be diverted to public safety improvement and recidivism reduction programs.

"Ninety-fine percent of people who are incarcerated will ultimately return to our communities," said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), part of the Louisianans for Prison Alternatives coalition, which helped win bipartisan support for the reforms. "It is in everyone's interest for them to succeed upon release. To ensure that happens, we must provide a support system to facilitate success, prevent recidivism, and protect public safety. "

Louisiana has been dubbed the incarceration capital of the world, because the state has the highest per capita incarceration rate on the planet. Louisiana incarcerated 776 people per 100,000 residents in 2015 – far beyond the national rate of 458, according to numbers that SPLC got from the U.S. Justice Department.

Here's more information on the Nov. 1 prisoner release provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

These numbers are not unusual. The Department of Corrections already releases approximately 1,500 inmates per month; about the same number of people who would have been released in two months will now be released in one.

These individuals are not in prison for violent crimes. Those being released on Nov. 1 have been serving time for non-violent, non-sex-related offenses.

The percentage change in eligibility is minor. The reforms have resulted in a 5 percent change in the amount of "good time" a person can earn. Previously, individuals were eligible for release after serving 40 percent of their sentences; now it's 35 percent.

Most individuals being released on Nov. 1 are already close to their release date. Under the new laws, people are being released on average just eight weeks earlier than their projected release date under the previous policy.

They are participating in re-entry programming. The Department of Corrections has worked to identify those being released so every individual will complete a pre-release curriculum before returning home. The reforms ensured this curriculum is available to all individuals being released from all facilities, not just those that have a transition specialist.

Probation and parole officers are prepared. Their caseloads will re-balance within six months as additional reforms – those that will allow individuals to earn compliance credit and terminate their supervision early – go into effect.

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