Lawmakers discuss ways to reduce state's prison population
BATON ROUGE – Governor John Bel Edwards' criminal justice task force has made recommendations to lawmakers on how to reduce Louisiana's prison population.
The task force discussed the topic of violent crimes on Thursday and made recommendations that included granting parole hearings for juveniles sentenced to life in prison and for adults who are 50 years old and have already served thirty years.
"The problem is we have an overcrowding problem, we have a fiscal problem and we're trying to consider both of them at the same time," Senator Danny Martiny said.
Supporters of the recommendations say an overhaul will reduce repeat offenders and save the state money. The Department of Corrections is the third largest expenditure in the state's budget.
Allies of the effort include business groups, many of which have had their taxes raised because of the state's budget crisis.
However, major opposition to reform could come from the district attorneys who only want sentencing reform for non-violent criminals.
"There's not a single person who we've put in prison who doesn't belong there, it becomes about public safety," Ricky Babin, district attorney of the 23rd judicial district, said.
Others in opposition are family members of victims of violent crimes.
"In 2014 my son Ronald Chillis was murdered in twenty fourteen and I'm just looking for justice, and I think if they take a life they should be sentenced to life," Evelyn Chillis said.
They say that the budget crisis is not an excuse to give violent criminals a second chance.
"We came so they know you can't put a price tag on a human life," Catalene Theriot, mother of a murder victim, said.
Lawmakers may take up the criminal reform proposals in the next regular session that begins next month.