Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, will be proposing significant changes to legislation meant to shorten criminal sentences that are the lynchpin of a larger bipartisan criminal justice package meant to reduce Louisiana's highest-in-the-country incarceration rate.
Mack is the chairman of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice, which has to approve the bills, and has influence over the fate of the legislation because of his position.
You'd think a guy in Mack's position would have gotten a little more hands-on with this high profile legislation a lot earlier in the process. But no.
The criminal justice package that has been moving its way through the Legislature is a compromise struck by Gov. John Bel Edwards and and Louisiana's district attorneys after weeks of negotiations. Mack said he has not talked to the governor or district attorneys about his amendments yet.Mack wants to write out the retroactivity stipulations of the bills meaning non-violent and some first time violent offenders currently in prison will no longer have the possibility of seeing their sentences shortened. In addition to the plain cruelty there, Mack is jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars in budgetary savings. Walt Leger's proposal to reinvest those savings into various crime prevention, re-entry programs, and victims' services just passed this afternoon. Why? Well, he has tried to run for DA in his district before. Maybe that's where he's headed next. But that isn't for a while. Maybe he just likes the attention.
"He hasn't really talked to anybody about his changes, which is the frustrating part," said Rep. Joseph Marino, of Gretna, who is carrying the three Senate bills in the House. Marino, a criminal defense lawyer, has been involved in many of the negotiations between the governor and the district attorneys. "The reason we've been having all the meetings to build consensus is to avoid people doing just this type of thing."