Louisiana’s Habitual Offender law has condemned thousands of Louisianans to life imprisonment for minor offenses, helping make Louisiana the world leader for incarceration.
KATC Investigates finds out if this tough on crime rhetoric benefited the state and who controls the sentencing.
“If the state legislature passes laws regarding habitual offenders we need to use that law to protect our citizens,” said St. Landry Parish Sheriff, Bobby Guidroz.
St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says the Habitual Offender Law isn’t being used enough. In his almost 50 years in law enforcement, habitual offenders are a recurring problem.
“We do have problems with habitual offenders and there’s not a lot that we can do about it except chase them again and lock them up. Lots of times, habitual offenders are back on the street before we can even meet with the judges or the district attorney. I think it’s important that we all understand that this is a good law and we need to use it,” said Guidroz.
Although Guidroz doesn't have the power to prosecute, he believes politics hinders them from protecting the parish.
“Sometimes the parole board will see it differently, the governor will see you differently from local law-enforcement and I get it and I understand it, but we have right now the ability to put habitual offenders out of the community that most complain,” said Guidroz.
When questioned about harsh sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, Guidroz is willing to offer help.
”I don’t have a problem with working with them maybe getting them to a drug treatment center or some kind of counseling to work with them with their issues but it becomes very difficult when law enforcement have to deal with a habitual violent offender are a lot of the issues that we have so we’re putting our law enforcement at risk. We’re putting our citizens at risk and I don’t want law enforcement to be blamed for not following through with what we’re supposed to do,” Guidroz added.
In the November 2020 election, the parish elected its first republican district attorney. Guidroz hopes this change in leadership will result in safer communities.
“We will now have the ability to meet with prosecutors and the judicial system to tell them what our issues are and they’re listening,” said Guidroz.
We reached out to the St. Landry Parish district attorney for an interview but never received a response.
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