Dept. of Corrections creates COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel

Posted at 2:10 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 15:56:58-04

The Department of Corrections announced on Tuesday that it had created a COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel to help reduce prison populations in the state and stop the spread of the virus.

DOC Secretary James Le Blanc made the announcement in a release that states that he is working with local and state law enforcement partners on additional measure to safely reduce the potential risk of COVID-19 in Louisiana’s prisons and jails.

The DOC says it will consider furloughs for certain nonviolent and non-sex inmates within six months of release date.

According to the release, the DOC has created the COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel to consider certain nonviolent/non-sex inmates, who are within the last six months of their prison sentence, for temporary furloughs as allowed for under state law. These efforts mirror the same actions being taken at the federal level based on the order from U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the release states.

Le Blanc states the creation the of the COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel is a mechanism to safely reduce the inmate population in a way that maintains public safety and promotes public health.

“We have worked hard to reduce the potential risk of COVID-19 throughout Louisiana prisons and jails,” said Le Blanc in a statement. “This additional endeavor will help further our efforts to protect staff and inmates in these facilities. Public safety is paramount when making a decision to furlough any inmate, which is why I have chosen to create this panel comprised of cross agency membership to evaluate each inmate for suitability.”

According to Le Blanc, state law authorizes the DOC Secretary to grant temporary furlough to inmates who are within six months of their release date, and to add eligibility and suitability criteria and delineate a process and conditions for temporary furloughs.

In collaboration with stakeholders, Le Blanc states that he has established the COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel, which includes:
1. Secretary of DOC, or designee
2. Director of Probation & Parole, or designee
3. Executive Director of Pardon & Parole Board, or designee
4. Victim’s Advocate, as appointed by the Governor
5. Executive Director of LA Sheriff’s Association, or designee
6. Executive Director of the LA District Attorney’s Association, or designee

According to DOC, the COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel will review inmates on a rolling, case-by-case basis until the public health emergency declared by the Governor is terminated. At least a five out of six vote of approval is required for an inmate to be furloughed. Conditions of the furlough require home incarceration, ankle bracelet monitoring, and active supervision for the duration of the furlough.

The temporary furlough terminates on the inmate’s assigned Good Time Parole Supervision release date, the date of release assigned by the Parole Board, or full-term release date, whichever is earlier, at which point the inmate will transition onto parole supervision, the release states.

DOC says that if the inmate reaches full-term release date, the sentence is completed and there is no parole supervision. These COVID-19 temporary furloughs will be done on an individual basis and not on a general group classification.

According to the release, the panel is tasked with reviewing two separate groups of DOC inmates. The first group includes inmates currently housed in state prison facilities with pre-existing medical conditions. The second group includes offenders who are mostly housed in local jails. Both groups would have to be serving sentences for nonviolent/non-sex offenses; currently within six months of their release date; and have housing or residence ready to receive them.

DOC states that the COVID-19 Furlough Review Panel will sunset upon the expiration of Proclamation Number 41 JBE 2020, or any subsequent extension proclamation.