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LA Gov Seeks To Reverse Justice Reforms in Special Session

Gov. Jeff Landry will get his first opportunity to unwind Louisiana’s landmark criminal justice overhaul from 2017 this week when lawmakers meet for a special legislative session on crime policy, reports the Louisiana Illuminator. The overhaul is a package of law changes designed to save money by reducing its highest-in-the-country incarceration rate. It revolved around shortening criminal sentences and providing flexibility on parole. Landry opposed those plans from the beginning, and doubled down on his position last year in campaign ads featuring crime victims and suggested harsher criminal penalties would give them relief. The 2017 law changes Landry has criticized also poured millions of dollars into assistance for violent crime survivors, who can struggle to get state support. Over the past six years, Louisiana transferred $20.3 million from its prison system to much-needed crime victim services as a result of locking fewer people up, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. 

The criminal justice overhaul reduced incarceration for nonviolent offenses, freeing up millions of dollars for programs that help survivors, as the largest and most reliable source of state funding for domestic violence victim services. Criminal justice savings helped bring the state’s crime victims reparations fund out of a financial hole. Since 2017, about $6.6 million from the overhaul has been deposited into the reparations fund, clearing a three-year backlog in victim payments, said Jim Craft of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. The criminal justice overhaul also provided extra money for services for sexual assault victims. Landry’s 2024-25 budget proposal retains the money for those services in the short term, but it’s not clear what will happen after next year. Louisiana expects annual budget deficits of over half-billion dollars starting in 2025, when a large sales tax cut goes into effect. State officials and survivors’ advocates said Landry’s administration hasn’t talked to them about whether scuttling the criminal justice overhaul will jeopardize funding for crime victim programs. “I think until the crime victims fund is serving every single person who needs it, not a dime should be taken away,” said Katie Hunter-Lowrey, a crime survivors' advocate.


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