Inmates to be released as part of criminal justice reform
Thirty-six inmates at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center are among the roughly 1,900 inmates to be released early as part of the state’s overhaul of its criminal justice system.
Inmates across the state will be released early from Louisiana prisons and jails Wednesday, in a push by lawmakers to reduce the nation’s highest incarceration rate.
The inmate releases are among the changes in 10 laws that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed in June.
The measures are projected to reduce the state’s prison population by up to 10 percent over 10 years. Louisiana, which now has the nation’s highest incarceration rate, could lose that status by the end of 2018, according to the governor’s office.
“I have mixed emotions about it,” Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton said. “I understand the state’s financial burden on keeping inmates, but my concern is the safety of the members of the community.”
The law allowing for earlier “good time” releases is limited to inmates serving sentences for nonviolent offenses, a designation defined by law. The Department of Corrections says nearly all of the inmates would have been released within a few months of the November date.
“These are non-violent offenders and not sex offenders, ” Sexton said. “But I do understand that they have done wrong to others, whether it be theft or something of that nature and my number one concern is public safety.”
Sexton said is he is willing to give the reform bill a try, but has some concern that the released inmates may find their way back to criminal activity, shifting the cost of housing the inmates from the state to the parish to fight increased crime.
The move will also save the state about $356 million over the next 10 years.
The Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office will lose around $30,000 a month in funding that currently comes from the state with the release of the inmates, Sexton said.
“The state pays us $24.39 a day to house state inmates,” he said. “I haven’t got a definite figure yet, but it’s roughly around $30,000 a month. That’s a big drop, but I don’t anticipate us hurting financially from it.”
26th Judicial District Attorney Schuyler Marvin said the laws were packaged and promoted as reform, but that’s not exactly what it is.
“I have a lot of problems with this,” Marvin told the Bossier Press-Tribune. “No where in any single bill is there any concrete reference to us getting a mental health facility so we have no place to put them. Louisiana is one of the few states that doesn’t have alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities. No where does it say in the legislative text that we’re going to get them.”
Marvin said it’s up to the public now to hold their legislators accountable.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets any better,” he added.