Two Freed in LA Justice Reform Accused of Murder

“These are things that unfortunately happen,” says Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. Despite arrests of released inmates on various offenses, state officials say the reform effort has been successful and saved $12.2 million.

At least two people released from prison ahead of schedule under Louisiana’s criminal justice overhaul have been arrested for murder, the Advocate reports. “I have to work on the future here and what we are trying to do to avoid those things from happening,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc at a news conference one year after the state began its major justice reform undertaking. “My heart goes out to the victims, and it’s a major issue.” In both cases, offenders who had been in-and-out of prison on mostly drug-related charges were part of a wave of early releases in November. Each was arrested in June on suspicion of murder in separate cases. One man was originally scheduled to be released in April, so he would have been out of prison in any case. The other was not originally to be released until this October. “These are things that unfortunately happen,” LeBlanc said.

Despite those two cases and several rearrests of released inmates for lesser offenses, state leaders say they believe that the overall effort has been successful. It was approved with bipartisan support from the legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards. The law allows sentences to be shortened more rapidly for nonviolent, non-sex-crime offenders who receive credit for good behavior, cutting the mandatory time served from 40 percent of their original sentences to 35 percent. The first wave of nearly 2,000 early releases took place on Nov. 1, 2017.  The state has saved $12.2 million on incarceration, and 70 percent of that money is going back into programs to reduce recidivism and support crime victims. Critics point to the two accused of murder and others who have ended up back behind bars after early release as possible indicators that the state should be cautious as it continues to shed inmates.