LA May Release 2,000 Under Sentencing Law Changes

Louisiana is reviewing the sentences of almost half of the state’s 35,500 prison population under newly enacted state sentencing laws. As many as 2,000 may be released in November, most of them convicted of nonviolent offenses.

Louisiana officials are reviewing the sentences of 16,000 inmates who could have their prison time shortened as criminal law changes take effect Nov. 1. That’s around 45 percent of the 35,500 people the state has locked up now, reports Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state legislature enacted sentencing changes this year, aiming to reduce Louisiana’s highest-in-the-world incarceration rate. Changes that retroactively affect low-level offenders take effect in November, driving the review. The 16,000 prison terms being reconsidered are for nonviolent offenses only and many will remain unchanged, said corrections and public safety secretary Jimmy LeBlanc.

LeBlanc estimates about 1,500 to 2,000 inmates will get out in the weeks after Nov. 1. Others will probably have to wait. Some inmates may not have completed all the rehabilitation work required to get out at an earlier date. Before the state law changes, the inmate total was expected to reach 36,300 by November.  If 2,000 additional people were released in November, that would amount to a five percent decrease. The majority of Louisiana states inmates are not housed in state prisons. About 55 percent of them are kept in local parish jails by sheriffs who are paid by the prison system to house them. In addition to the thousands of records for nonviolent offenders being reviewed, a few hundred people convicted of murder — mostly as juveniles — have also become newly eligible for parole under the sentencing changes.