Gov. Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C) released the first report outlining savings from criminal justice reform measures passed by the legislature in 2017. The savings, according to the report, have exceeded Pew Charitable Trusts’ projections. Savings for fiscal year 2018 totaled $12.2 million, doubling Pew’s original projections of $6.1 million.
“In 2017, Republicans, Democrats and Independents came together to rethink our criminal justice system,” said Gov. Edwards. “We knew what we were doing just wasn’t working and it was costing us more money. By following the lead of other southern, conservative states, we passed a package of 10 bills that will improve public safety and reduce recidivism.”
“This is great news for the state of Louisiana,” said James M. Le Blanc, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. “Our goal and our mission with criminal justice reform is to reinvest money we would usually pay for incarceration into programs aimed at better preparing our returning citizens and individuals on probation and parole, and to help victims of crime.”
The Justice Reinvestment bills are anticipated to save the state more than $262 million over the next decade, and 70 percent of the savings will be reinvested into programs to reduce recidivism and support victims.
The Department currently intends to use first-year reinvestment funding in support of the following priorities: Increasing programming for state inmates housed at local jails; Enhancing and expanding Regional Reentry Centers; Increasing Probation and Parole staffing and Day Reporting Centers; Launching a Transitional Housing pilot program; Opening a new Reception Center to conduct assessments for new inmates; and Expanding Specialty Courts.
Grants to Community-Based Services: With the goal of ensuring this funding is spent in the most effective and transparent way possible, DPS&C has created a Community Incentive Grant Program and has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP).
The RFP is intended to elicit proposals from qualified community organizations that are interested in enhancing or expanding coordination of reentry services and community supports to increase prison alternatives and reduce recidivism. Funding will be awarded in the fall of 2018.
Grants to Support Victims’ Services: Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement (LCLE) currently intends to use first-year reinvestment funding in support of the following priorities:
Supplementing the Crime Victims’ Reparations Fund; Establishing a new Family Justice Center in East Baton Rouge Parish; Improving
electronic notifications for victims by developing an electronic system that will interface with all 64 parish clerks of court; and Providing funding to the Louisiana Bureau of Investigations for a dedicated forensics server for their Cybercrimes Unit.
Prior to the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) legislation, Louisiana was leading the nation in imprisonment, with a rate nearly double the national average.
Dr. Susan Tucker, psychologist with the DPS&C has been working on programs to reduce incarceration rates. In 2016 legislators pointed to multimillion dollar cost savings to the state because of shorter incarceration times of those offenders who participated in the psychological programs designed and delivered by Tucker and her team at the Bossier Sherriff’s Office, Medium Correctional Facility, located between Benton and Plain Dealing, Louisiana. Dr. Tucker has been working on reducing the rates through her comprehensive, innovative, and evidenced-based programs, to improve lives, families and community safety.
“I am very proud of our program and that we accomplish two goals which save taxpayer money but also provide rehabilitation to the substance abuse incarcerated offenders as well as their families,” Dr. Tucker told the Times.