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February 20, 2013

Louisiana Governor proposes juvenile justice system changes

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced a series of legislative proposals Friday to the state's criminal justice system. Two of the three bills aim to overhaul certain aspects of the state's juvenile justice system. The third would expand the state's drug rehabilitation program and allow some non-violent repeat drug offenders eligible for early release.

Flanked by stakeholders and legislators from both parties, Jindal said the proposals are aimed to help troubled youth, reduce recidivism and improve drug rehabilitation programs, while also lowering costs by reducing incarceration numbers.  He also said that the changes would save Louisiana millions of dollars, allowing the state to reinvest the savings in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

The shift from incarceration-heavy legislation to a focus on mental health and rehabilitation is as much a function of changing attitudes as it is of tough economic times.

"By over-incarcerating people who don't need to get locked up for public-safety purposes, we're not improving public safety and we're misdirecting funds," Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project said Friday after hearing of the proposals.

A Sentencing Project report released in January lauded Louisiana for recent changes made to mandatory life sentences and parole terms including a Senate bill that brought the state in compliance with a Supreme Court case eliminating life without parole for juveniles convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Racial Disparity, Juvenile Justice