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Changes coming to LA criminal justice system to reduce high incarceration rate

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With the highest incarceration rate in the world, Louisiana lawmakers are taking steps to change that. 

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force approved five measures, amending criminal justice laws.

Rep. Terry Landry, who sits on the committee said, "What we've been doing for the past 20, 30 years have not worked. So, if you keep doing the same thing and getting the same results, they tell you you have to change course."

The reform is something many have look forward to for decades.

New Orleans resident Fox Rich said, "They sentenced my husband to 60 years as a first-time felony offender in LA in a crime that no injury was sustained by any of our victims. So, this is an opportunity that we've waited a very long time for and we've worked a very long time for to make sure we have prepared ourselves for his return into society."  

But not everyone is on board with the changes. 

Catalene Theriot of Franklin said, "My only child was brutally murdered, and the guy that did it is serving a life sentence. I believe he needs to do that because my son was not asked if he wanted to serve a life sentence. He was given that. I believe the one that murdered him should have to spend his life in jail."

The committee decided to expand parole eligibility for aging inmates, except for those convicted of first-degree murder as well as offer parole for juvenile lifers after they serve 30 years.

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force also moved to reduce the amount of time it takes to reach parole eligibility for first-time violent offenders from 75% to 55% of sentence served.

The state also plans to prohibit lowest level felony sentences for crimes, like drug possession, from being enhanced under habitual offender law and eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for some felon in possession of a firearm convictions.

Rich added, "I'm delighted to see that our state government and lawmakers are going to be willing this legislative session to right some of the wrongs that have been done over the past 30 years to the citizens in this state while still protecting public safety."

This committee will meet again on March 16 to discuss final recommendations. Then, those recommendations will pass on to the governor's desk for review.

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