As Louisiana prepares to institute forward-looking sentencing reforms next month, the New Orleans newspaper criticizes Attorney General Jeff Sessions for looking backward toward the failed tough-on-crime strategies of the 1990s.
In an editorial, the New Orleans Times-Picayune takes Attorney General Jeff Sessions to task for his attempts to reverse the sorts of sentencing reforms scheduled to go into effect in November in Louisiana. That would be a mistake, the paper says. “The measure isn’t how many people we put in jail,” Ronal Serpas, former New Orleans police superintendent, said last week in a Washington Post article. “The measure is whether the right people are put in jail.” Serpas is the founder of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime, whose 200 members are concerned about Sessions’ shift back toward the more punitive approach of the 1980s and ’90s.
The group recently sent a letter to President Trump and Sessions asking for the federal government to stick with “modern strategies, innovative solutions, and a reliance on confirmed data. The Times-Picayune continued, “These are sensible suggestions from a group made up of experienced police officers and prosecutors…Louisiana has for decades tried to solve its crime problem by locking people up for long stints, even if they never committed a violent crime. That approach hasn’t lowered the crime rate. All it has done is make the state the world’s leader in incarceration. By comparison, Texas’ crime rate is down 30 percent since it passed sentencing reforms in 2007 and started reducing its prison population, according to research by a legislative task force. South Carolina passed prison reforms in 2010 and has closed six prisons. Both its rate of incarceration and its crime rate have dropped 16 percent, the task force said. Sessions is taking the wrong approach. He ought to listen to these experts.”