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Governor and district attorneys at odds over calculating reoffense rates for criminals

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BATON ROUGE- Governor John Bel Edwards and the Department of Corrections are firing back against district attorneys who claim one in four prisoners released early last November have re-offended.

The Department of Corrections said it looks at whether an offender has been convicted of the offense they were re-arrested for before a "recidivism rate" is determined. Those recidivism rates for the prisoners who were released last November won't be known until January 2019, according to Corrections Secretary Jimmy Leblanc.

"It's not re-arrest," Leblanc said. "It's about being reincarcerated into our prison system, and that's how we figure our numbers, and that's how it gets confusing for the public and the district attorneys to some extent not understanding how we figure."

However, district attorneys across the state said that's not the way anyone does it around the country.

"You pick up any brochure, anything in the criminal justice field, you will see recidivism is a return to prison by arrest," District Attorney Hillar Moore said. "The numbers we look at and calculate and anyone that does any type of research calculates is your return to prison following an arrest."

According to the National Institute of Justice, recidivism is defined as the following: "Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice. It refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the prisoner's release."

Governor Edwards' office took issue with the fact that the District Attorney's Association calculated nearly one in four offenders cut loose last November re-offended.

According to numbers District Attorney Moore is keeping, of the 1,984 inmates that were set free, 516 were re-arrested. The governor's office says their number is at 362. According to the governor's office, recidivism rates are not available even though the district attorneys say they are.

"Right now, for the basic research, you want to know who has returned to prison and why," Moore said. "You aren't going to wait a year, two years to see what they were convicted or what charge. It matters why they returned. Was it a bad arrest? It could be. But, convictions should be looked at long-term, but for now, it's re-arrest and they are back in prison again."

Thursday, Secretary Leblanc confirmed what the WBRZ Investigative Unit first reported: that some of those released under the criminal justice reforms were re-arrested on murder charges.

"There are two that have been arrested for murder," Leblanc said. "One would have been out anyway. The other would not have. I have a lot of compassion for our victims. Part of the reinvestment strategies are to reinvest in the victims' services."

But the district attorneys said their number of offenders who were released accused of murder stands at five.

"I don't think it's a liability issue," Leblanc said. "I think it would have happened anyway. If it was going to happen, it would have happened anyway."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit asked if he meant that the victims would have been killed anyway.

"I'm not saying that," Leblanc said. "I'm saying it could have been... Could have been the case."

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