House passes bill to give repeat offenders parole hearings
BATON ROUGE - A bill to offer a chance at parole for some in state prisons received a lot of debate before being passed by the full Louisiana House today.
The House voted 86-7 to send the bill to the Senate, after a long debate about just who would get the chance for a parole hearing.
Under current law, habitual offenders are given a life sentence after three convictions. The measure from Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, would allow prisoners sentenced under the state's habitual offender law to receive parole hearings, depending on how long they'd been in prison and their behavior while inside.
"I understand that there are many of you in here who don't want to see anybody get out," Smith said. "This is not being soft on crime. This is being smart on crime."
Former State Police Superintendent Terry Landry backs changing the guidelines, along with many of the state's corrections leaders. Angola Warden Burl Cain told lawmakers the measure could help ease overcrowding in the state's prisons.
The bill would allow inmates sentenced under the habitual offender law to receive a parole hearing if:
- They were 18 to 24 when sentenced and served 25 years
- They were 25 to 34 when sentenced and served 20 years
- They were 35 to 49 when sentenced and served 15 years
- They were 50 or older and served at least 10 years of their sentence
Only offenders with convictions for nonviolent crimes and with a record of good behavior would receive a parole hearing. Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, put forward an amendment to require each offender serve at least 25 years before being eligible, but it was rejected.