LA May Roll Back Part of Prison Reform Law

A new medical furlough law allows sick, old and dying people to be released from prison. Now, state legislators are moving to exclude from the program those who have been convicted of first-degree murder.

Last year, Louisiana enacted legislation aimed at making it easier to let sick, old and dying people out of prison as part of its larger criminal justice overhaul. Now, it looks like some of those efforts may last only a few months, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The Louisiana Senate voted 28-7 on Tuesday to undo part of the program it approved in 2017 to handle sick and old inmates more cost effectively. The House, which was more skeptical of the criminal justice overhaul in the first place, will now take up the bill. The bill restricts a new program for state inmates, medical furlough, that lets the prison system release people temporarily if they are terminally ill or permanently disabled.

The legislation would ban prisoners who have been convicted of first-degree murder from being considered for the program. People convicted of second-degree murder and others will still be able to qualify for medical furlough under the Senate proposal. The medical furlough law went into effect in November. Ailing prisoners’ cases were heard for the first time last month. So far, eight have gone before the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole asking for medical furlough. Five have been granted temporary release and three were denied. The medical furlough program was essentially designed specifically to get those prisoners out of prison once they become ill and no longer a threat to society. Of the few who have qualified for medical furlough, two have been convicted of first-degree murder and would not have been released under Gatti’s bill.