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District attorneys critical of state prison plan argue freed inmates are breaking laws again

4 months 2 weeks 3 days ago Wednesday, August 01 2018 Aug 1, 2018 August 01, 2018 6:09 PM August 01, 2018 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- According to statistics that were revealed during the annual District Attorney's Conference this summer, nearly one in four inmates who have been released under Governor John Bel Edwards' criminal justice reform package have reoffended since their release last year.

Last month, the number was at 22 percent according to District Attorney Hillar Moore, who said local district attorneys are tracking the numbers. Of those back in jail, at least five are accused of committing murder.

In June, Governor John Bel Edwards said he was pleased with how the criminal justice reform unfolded.

"When I ran for Governor, I made a promise by the end of my first term Louisiana would not have the highest incarceration rate in the nation," Edwards said. "Today, I am happy. I am thrilled to say we have fulfilled that promise to the people of Louisiana and we can officially announce Louisiana does not hold the title of incarceration capital of the nation."

Part of the package of reforms reduced the prison population around the state by thousands for non-violent and non-sex offenders.

"This is about making people in Louisiana safer," Edwards said. "We can actually save money and reduce our incarceration rate and improve our public safety at the same time."

However, those words are not reality according to local district attorneys.

In the 23rd Judicial District, which covers Ascension, Assumption and St. James Parishes, one out of three of those inmates released on November 1, 2017 has reoffended within eight months of their early release.

"Rehousing them locally, reprosecuting them, doing this all over again," District Attorney Ricky Babin said.

Babin is the president of the DA's Association in Louisiana. He said statewide, everyone agrees some of the offenders should have been released, but others should have been checked better.

"There were no parole or probation hearings on these released in November," Babin said. "It was done strictly by time. It was an automatic parole, and that's concerning."

Babin and other district attorneys we talked to Wednesday commented, saying 'our streets are safer' is not accurate.

"I've seen no evidence that this act has made our streets safer," Babin said. "I've seen evidence that this has reduced the prison population, but that's not success. That's math. If you have 40,000 inmates and you let 10,000 out, that's a 25 percent decrease. The question no one is asking is, 'should we?'"

The WBRZ Investigative Unit reached out to the Governor's office for a statement or interview about this story.

A spokeswoman called the numbers "incorrect" even though they were provided by the district attorneys themselves who are tracking the reoffenses.

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