Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Louisiana: Reforms in Sentencing, Parole

From the Times-Picayune: Amid increasing attention to Louisiana's world-leading incarceration rate, the 2012 Legislature adopted and Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed several measures that alter the state's sentencing and parole laws, primarily for nonviolent offenders whose crimes involved drugs or property. The Louisiana Sentencing Commission recommended nearly all of the changes. They include: 

Merger of separate pardon and parole boards (House Bill 518): Two members will be added to the five-member pardon board, and the seven-person panel, sitting as a "parole committee," will decide whether to release eligible prisoners on parole. The existing parole board will cease to exist.

Discretion on mandatory minimums (House Bill 1068): Prosecutors, defendants and judges are given authority to make pre-trial plea agreements or post-trial sentencing agreements that call for lesser punishment than the minimum required in existing criminal statutes.

Parole for nonviolent, second-time offenders (House Bill 1026): Certain second-time offenders, excluding those whose crimes were sexual in nature, could be eligible for a parole hearing after serving one-third of their sentences, rather than the current requirement of one-half.

Parole for nonviolent offenders sentenced to life (House Bill 543): Certain nonviolent, good-behavior, low-risk lifers will be eligible for release earlier, including for the first time those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The change excludes anyone whose crimes were sexual in nature. Inmates who were sentenced between the ages of 18 and 24 must serve at least 25 years to be eligible. Those sentenced between ages 25 and 34 must serve at least 20 years. Those sentenced between ages 35 and 49 must serve at least 15 years. Those sentenced at age 50 or older must serve at least 10 years.

Expanded re-entry courts (House Bill 521): A pilot court program that assists released nonviolent offenders with job training and other re-entry issues will be expanded into two new judicial districts. Streamlined discipline for offenders on probation (House Bill 512): In certain instances, officers will be able to use administrative sanctions to discipline offenders without taking them back to court.

See more here.

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