After being released under Louisiana's criminal justice reforms, 76 former state incarcerees have been rearrested for crimes ranging from parole offenses and bank fraud to aggravated assault and armed robbery.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards's office was quick to emphasize that these 76 constituted a small percentage of the 1,900 offenders who were released late last year, the Shreveport Times reported. A spokesperson told the Times that "the vast majority… [are] living up to the terms and conditions of their release."
That release was a product of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act (LJRA), a 10 bill package passed last November with bipartisan support in the state's legislature and signed by the state's Democratic governor. The act was intended to cut Louisiana's prison population by 10 percent and $262 million in expenses by 2027.
Louisiana currently has the highest incarceration rate per capita of any state in the nation, with 816 people per 100,000 residents, almost double the national average. One in three Louisianans recidivate within three years of release.
To reduce the state's sky-high incarceration rate, the LJRA reduces the amount of time until offenders may be paroled. Nonviolent, nonsex offenders are parole eligible after 25 percent of their time is served, and violent offenders are parole eligible after 65 percent of their time is served.
The first reoffender came just eight days after the mass release on Nov. 1, 2017. Tyrone White, who was previously held for four years on a burglary charge, was rearrested on charges of armed robbery in what the Louisiana Department of Corrections termed a "squandered opportunity."
Of the 76 reoffenders overall, charges cover a range of offenses: the Times listed drug charges, bank fraud, felon in possession of a firearm, motor vehicle theft, aggravated assault, theft, simple burglary, DWI, flight from an officer, armed robbery, battery, criminal trespassing and domestic abuse battery.
The governor's office remains positive about the reforms, calling their implementation a "significant success."
"Early numbers in the first month of the criminal justice reform indicate that the new laws are being implemented with significant success," a spokesman for Governor Edwards told the Times in an email. "We are not seeing people being rearrested since their early release in alarming numbers."
"In an ideal world, there would be zero instances of someone being re-arrested," the spokesman added. "But unfortunately, it is inevitable that some people may relinquish their chance to rejoin society."
But law enforcement is more skeptical, having expressed skepticism of the bill back in October. That skepticism, in some cases, remains unallayed.
"The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was passed to save money," Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator told the Times. "I'm not certain if that will or won't happen, but how do you put a price on what the victims must continue to live with?"
Prator also criticized the fact that the LJRA only concerns itself with an incarceree's most recent offense, not taking into account criminal history when considering eligibility for parole.
Also critical of reforms is Louisiana Senator John Kennedy (R.). In a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would loosen federal sentencing standards, Kennedy opposed the bill on the grounds of his own state's "unqualified disaster" of an attempt at sentencing reform.
"My governor has attempted sentencing reform in Louisiana," Kennedy said. "I thank him for his good intentions, but it has been an unqualified disaster."
Edwards subsequently rebuffed Kennedy's criticisms in a letter to the Judiciary committee, and the SRCA was passed out of committee over the dissenting votes of Kennedy and four of his Republican colleagues.