In two press releases, Gov. John Bel Edwards touted the state’s improved criminal justice program after a November report by PEW and a bipartisan report by the Pelican Commission Institute highlighted significant improvements in Louisiana’s criminal justice reform outcomes.
In December, the Governor said the Pelican Institute, a conservative think tank, released an analysis of crime data in Louisiana that drew four conclusions:
1) Property crimes are decreasing in Louisiana 2) Increases in violent crime were a nationwide event in 2020, impacting almost every state 3) Violent crime increases in Louisiana were lower than in other southern states 4) Increases in violent crime are not correlated with criminal justice reforms or decreased incarceration rates.
According to the announcement, one of the key goals of bipartisan criminal justice reform was to reserve prison beds and law enforcement resources for more dangerous offenders. Incarceration numbers for Louisianans convicted of non-violent crimes have dropped significantly thanks to bipartisan criminal justice reform, but Louisiana now has more people incarcerated for violent offenses than before criminal justice reform. According to the Pelican Institute analysis, violent offenders are also serving longer sentences now than they were before bipartisan criminal justice.
“This report proves that bipartisan criminal justice reform has actually helped Louisiana
fight the nationwide increase in violent crime by focusing our law enforcement resources on violent offenders,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “Don’t let lazy narratives fool you. We have gotten smarter on crime, and tougher on violent crime. Conservative, liberal, and non-partisan experts all agree that our reforms have been successful, because the data proves it. We still have a lot of work to do to bring down crime rates, but we’re better off thanks to bipartisan criminal justice reform.”
In November, the Governor’s office pointed out that the Pew Charitable Trusts published
Gov. Edwards Touts Positive Outcomes of Criminal Justice Reforms, continued a story highlighting the transformative impact bipartisan criminal justice reforms have had on Louisiana in the five years since taking effect.
Reporting for PEW, Michelle Russell wrote:
“This fall marks five years since Louisiana enacted its landmark criminal justice reforms. Signed by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2017, the 10 bills passed with strong bipartisan majorities and followed the recommendations of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, an interbranch body of justice system leaders and stakeholders.
“The new laws included changes to sentencing, corrections, and community supervision. In the legislation, policymakers focused on ensuring adequate prison space for those who pose a public safety threat, strengthening probation and parole practices, eliminating barriers to reentering society, and reinvesting savings to reduce recidivism and support victims. Using the most recent publicly available data, here are five findings about how Louisiana’s system has changed since the reforms took effect.
“The state’s prison population has fallen 24%, driven entirely by a decline in people convicted of nonviolent offenses.
“Louisiana’s reforms sought to steer people convicted of less serious crimes away from prison and shorten the time incarcerated for those who could be safely supervised in the community. In the summer of 2017, before the new laws took effect, there were about 35,500 people under the Louisiana Department of Corrections’ jurisdiction held in prisons or local jails throughout the state. By the summer of 2022, that number had fallen nearly a quarter to about 27,000. A report recently presented to lawmakers showed that the declining prison population was entirely driven by a reduction in people convicted of nonviolent offenses. That number shrank by about 11,000 between 2016 and 2021. Over the same period, the number of individuals who were incarcerated for violent offenses increased by almost 1,400.”
Dr. Susan Tucker, psychologist, was involved in these reforms. She was previously the Assistant Warden, licensed psychologist, and program developer at the Bossier Parish Correctional Center, designed the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Treatment Program. The program first began at the Forcht Wade Correction Center Keithville, Louisiana, and was relocated to the Medium Security Facility for the Bossier Sherriff located between Benton and Plain Dealing, LA.
Tucker’s programs earned state and national recognition, including a legislative commendation, the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment grant, and the governor’s grant for prevention. In 2010 the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization dedicated to improving justice systems through research and innovation, noted that the program, “…should be a model for the nation.”
In 2015, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has named Dr. Susan Tucker and her treatment programs as one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious Bright Ideas awards for innovation.