Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hard headed attorneys

Believe it or not the legislature has a better than even chance to accomplish something significant this session. A package of modest criminal justice reforms could, according to the task force recommending them, reduce the state's prison population by 13 percent and save about $300 million in the process. Louisiana is frequently cited by human rights organizations for its first in the nation incarceration rate.

Unlike the governor's surely doomed tax reforms, much of this stuff can probably pass. Some of it, in fact, probably has to. Here, for example, is the context behind Dan Claitor's bill to curb life sentences without parole for juveniles which just made it out of committee this week.
The legislation is largely motivated because the state is in violation of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

One court ruling, Miller v. Alabama found that life without the possibility of parole for juveniles was considered cruel and unusual punishment and could only be used for the rare, incorrigible cases of juvenile convictions. A subsequent decision Montgomery v. Louisiana found that the prohibition on life sentences for juveniles should be applied retroactively. 
Another reason for optimism, the broad support for reform from conservative groups and individuals who, in the past, one would assume to hold a lock-em-all-up position. Here they all are at a recent breakfast hosted by the Kochs' organization.  The Advocate report on that event also links to a part of the recent Reilly survey of Louisiana residents itself titled. "Large Majority Favors Criminal Justice Reform."  So there's significant momentum.   The only remaining obstacle... the Louisiana District Attorneys.  We mentioned this the other day, but don't take it from us. The Kochs' people are also bewildered.

Law enforcement generally start off opposing such efforts in other states, said Mark Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries Inc. and the featured speaker at the event. But he expressed surprise that Louisiana’s district attorneys are uniformly opposed to the revamp.

“Deep red states like Texas and South Carolina and Georgia passed it and found that it works for them,” Holden said in an interview. “You’d think that they would find comfort in the experiences in those states.”

The two brothers that head Koch Industries contribute liberally to conservative causes and have pushed criminal justice reform as a way to lower crime as well as save money for cash-strapped state governments.
When you find yourself positioned to the right of a majority of Louisiana voters, the Kochs as well as David Vitter and Tony Perkins who were also in the room that morning, maybe it's time to rethink things.

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