Governor Edwards is back in Louisiana after speaking with President Trump about criminal justice reform efforts. During an appearance on AM Baton Rouge on Talk 107-3, the governor defended what he called progress in reducing the state’s inmate population. Edwards says the way the state used to lock up non-violent offenders wasn’t working.
“We were spending seven hundred million dollars a year. We were not safer for it, we were locking up twice the national average in Louisiana and three times as many as Florida for nonviolent offenses but we have the same crime rate as Florida.”
Critics, like Attorney General Jeff Landry and Senator John Kennedy, have slammed Edwards, saying the reforms are putting dangerous criminals back on the streets. Edwards countered by saying most of the excess prisoners that boosted the state’s incarceration rate were behind bars for getting busted for holding drugs.
“We found out that drug possession was the leading cause of our high incarceration rate, and so we can do better.”
Landry and Kennedy along with outgoing DA’s Association President Ricky Babin have pointed to rearrests linked to prisoners who’ve been released under the reforms, but Edwards says the number of people released under the program who’ve been rearrested would still be under the national average of 40 percent.
“Even under the numbers they are using we are better than the national average, and there are not recidivism numbers.”
The 2017 reform package reduced the state’s prison population by allowing earlier releases for nonviolent offenders, as well as parole reforms allowing parolees to work towards shorter supervisory periods. 70 percent of the money saved is reinvested in programs targeting recidivism.