ICYMI: Justice Reform Experts Speak Out On Recent Criticisms Of Criminal Justice Reform

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Scott Peyton, Louisiana Director for Right on Crime has the following statement:

“Recently, several candidates for office and other elected officials have made unfounded and inaccurate claims regarding recent criminal justice reform efforts in Louisiana. In 2016, lawmakers, law enforcement, data experts, and other stakeholders came together to make necessary changes in order to increase public safety. At the time, one in three individuals were back in prison after three years. This number was unacceptable and the status quo was tolerated for too long.”

In 2017, the legislature, with overwhelming bipartisan support, passed ten bills to accomplish these goals. These bills were based on data and followed the lead of other states such as Texas, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Although it is still early, the reforms have shown promising results. Here are the realities:

  • Revocations from parole and probation are down 5.3%, which means less crime, less people in prison, and more money that can be invested in recidivism reducing programming.
  • Louisiana saved $12 million in the first year since these reforms were enacted and are projected to save an additional $17 million in 2019.
  • Caseloads for probation and parole officers have dropped significantly which has shown to reduce their chances of committing more crimes.
  • Some individuals have been released early, typically by a month or so. Some of those individuals have been brought back into custody for violating their supervision or committing a new crime. Any new criminal activity or violations of supervision should be taken seriously. However, recent claims about some of these cases contain grave errors and overstates the rates at which these individuals have been returned to custody. Preliminary data shows these early releases may be returning to custody at an even lower rate.

Peyton continued, “Judges and prosecutors make decisions regarding charging and sentencing. Plea deals that don’t accurately reflect the seriousness of the crime create bad outcomes for all Louisianans. Efforts to blame the length of someone’s sentence that don’t start with this truth are misleading at best.

Louisiana is finally reversing course on decades of poor decisions regarding their criminal justice system. We must continue to make these strides.”

Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in partnership with the American Conservative Union Foundation and Prison Fellowship that supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs. The movement was born in Texas in 2005, and in recent years, dozens of states such as Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, have led the way in implementing conservative criminal justice reforms.

Right on Crime has the support and works to mobilize the voices of more than 90 prominent conservative leaders who have endorsed the principles of conservative criminal justice reform, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance, former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

The following is a statement from Daniel Erspamer, chief executive officer of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy (Pelican Institute), regarding the recent criticisms of criminal justice reforms by Republican elected leaders and candidates.

“It’s disappointing to see elected officials and candidates for office using criminal justice reforms in disingenuous attacks and political ploys. From the beginning, these policies represented a rare instance of bipartisanship. They served as a place for everyone from across the political spectrum and communities across Louisiana, including business, law enforcement, faith, policy and good government leaders, to come together.

Today’s political debate offers far too few areas of consensus, and misleading scare tactics only further undercut opportunities for meaningful debate and discussion. The 2017 criminal justice reforms, passed by bipartisan majorities, were based on proven policies from other conservative, southern states. States like Texas and Georgia have seen demonstrably improved public safety, decreased rates of recidivism and saved taxpayer dollars thanks to similar reforms, and so far, early data points to the same potential successes in Louisiana.

It’s important to keep in mind that recidivism is always calculated by including only those convicted of crimes, not those that have been arrested without having their day in court. Our justice system is based on a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and claiming otherwise runs contrary to the principles upon which the system was built. In fact, it’s fundamentally un-American to presume the guilt of any person facing arrest.

Disingenuous attacks on vital reforms like these should not be left unanswered. We call on everyone engaged in the policy debate to stick to facts, explore the real data and promote it rather than relying on anecdotal evidence and emotional appeals. Safeguarding the future of Louisiana is too important to risk on political footballs and demagoguery.”  

About Pelican Institute
The Pelican Institute is a nonpartisan research and educational organization – a think tank – and the leading voice for free markets in Louisiana. The Institute’s mission is to conduct research and analysis that advances sound policies based on free enterprise, individual liberty, and constitutionally-limited government. For more information, visit PelicanInstitute.org or follow Pelican Institute on Facebook and Twitter.

The following is a statement from James M. “Jay” Lapeyre, M. Pres Kabacoff, Charles Geron “Gee Gee” Hargon and Michael Cowan, members of the Smart on Crime Louisiana Steering Committee, regarding ongoing criticisms of criminal justice reforms from Republican elected officials and candidates. 

“As business leaders, we know how important a reliable, effective and efficient justice system is to the success of the state. Politicians and those seeking office would do well to stay focused, as we have, on facts and data rather than anecdotal evidence. 

Early indications of the 2017 criminal justice reforms are promising, which should be no surprise given they were based in successful reforms implemented in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. 

Here are the facts as they stand today:

  • Overall crime rates in Louisiana remain at an all-time low.
  • None of the data cited in any of the recent political attack advertisements include measurements of Louisiana’s post-criminal justice reform environment.
  • The ads contain several material errors related to the various cases they cite, and it is important to note no individuals released early under the 2017 reforms has been convicted of murder. 
  • The common-sense reforms passed in 2017 were based on successful efforts in other conservative southern states, and Louisiana is tracking similarly to the successful outcomes achieved in more than a dozen other states.  
  • On November 1, 2017, 1,952 individuals were released early, many of whom were released fewer than 90 days before their original release date. 
  • On average, 95 percent of incarcerated individuals are released back to society, and 18,000 individuals are released from prison each year in Louisiana.

The 2017 passage of the landmark package of legislation to reform the state’s criminal justice policies continue to have the support of policy groups, as well as business, faith and law enforcement leaders from across the ideological spectrum. Louisianans should keep in mind that television advertisements airing during the peak of a political cycle often lack substance and misstate facts in hopes of tearing down opponents. We must all continue to speak loudly against false information, while remaining grounded in the facts and data.” 

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