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Criminal justice reform task force clears up concerns ahead of inmate release

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LAFAYETTE, La. -

In one week, the state's new justice package that's aimed at reforming the prison system in Louisiana will go into effect.

Part of the new law includes the release of about 1400 inmates on Nov. 1.

The reform has sparked conversations and concerns across the state, and on Wednesday the team that created the law took one last opportunity to offer peace of mind.

"Remember 95 percent of people that go to prison are going home. We all need to remember that. They're going home," said Secretary, La. Department of Public Safety and Corrections James Le Blanc.

And when more than 1,000 head home next month, extra precautions will be taken.

"Everyone that goes through the system is getting an individual reentry plan. They're having this risk needs assessment done. So what's going to happen is as they are transferred out of the prison and get into the probation and parole process, they're going to have all of these tools about this individual. The parole officers have been trained at a different level now," said Elain Ellerbe, Louisiana State Director, Right On Crime

Besides concerns about public safety, another red flag that's popped up dates back to the 1980s when the Department of Corrections agreed to pay sheriffs in several parishes to house state inmates.

"Sheriffs went out and sold bonds and got into debt to build a facility. Now, they've become dependent on D.O.C. Prisoners and it's almost become a business. So, we just can't jerk the rug from under their feet. We've got to transition them out of this quagmire that we all participated in and we have unintended consequences," said Representative Terry Landry.

With the financial relief that releasing the inmates is expected to bring, lawmakers plan to reinvest more than $15 million into programs for prisoners, parish jails facilities, crime victim support and re-entry programs over the next three years.

"It's really about establishing resources at the local level for treatment, drug treatment, for mental health issues and just basically residential, getting jobs and a place to live. Those things are a real challenge for anybody that's coming out of the prison system," said Le Blanc.

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