Early Release for 1,900 Louisiana Prisoners Concerns Law Enforcement

Early Release for 1,900 Louisiana Prisoners Concerns Law Enforcement

New legislation passed in Louisiana led to 1,900 prisoners being released in early November. The bill aims to lower the state’s incarceration rate — the highest in the country — and give nonviolent prisoners a new chance at life on the outside. But not everyone is happy with this new development. Winn Parish Sheriff Cranford Jordan says that a lack of prisoner education programs in Louisiana means the sudden influx of former inmates into society will burden the system.

The new legislation sees nonviolent offenders eligible for release once they have served 35 percent of their sentence. Upon release, they will be monitored. But unlike other states, such as Texas, Louisiana has no pre-release rehabilitation process.

Looking to Texas, Jordan says, “Prior to releasing the inmates, [Texas] had programs to train and assist them. I don’t see any of those programs in Louisiana. [The legislators] are just in a hurry and a rush to get [our prisoners] out. It’s going to add an additional burden to law enforcement, releasing so many in such a short time. It’s going to put a strain on local law enforcement to do our job properly.”

While the reformed legislation aims to reduce the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next ten years, most released inmates are entering society with little education and very few job skills. This could easily result in a high likelihood of recidivism.

Walt Leger, a Democrat, a sponsor of the new legislation, and the Louisiana state representative, stated the state has “an incredibly high recidivism rate. One of the biggest challenges we have is successful re-entry.”

Louisiana’s incarceration numbers are shocking. According to a 2009 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 1 in 26 adults in the state is incarcerated. This is higher than the national average of 1 in 31. As of 2013, the state was also the fifth highest for its violent crime rate and the third highest for its poverty rate. Violent crimes and poverty have been linked to a lack of education, as shown in the statistics. Louisiana is the fourth lowest state for adults obtaining a high school diploma. These are underlying reasons for the highest incarceration rate in America.

With statistics like that, it is easy to see why a sudden influx of nonviolent offenders is a primary concern for law enforcement, especially when those offenders have not had access to rehabilitation and education programs.

However, there may be a silver lining down the road.

The new legislation also calls for programs to help newly released inmates to stay out of jail, and the need for upgraded resources in the state’s prisons has also been acknowledged. The early release program will save Louisiana $262 million over the next ten years, and 70 percent of those savings are earmarked for prisoner training and rehabilitation programs.

While the initial solution of a mass release of prisoners is not ideal, clear answers must be found to curb the burgeoning prisoner population in Louisiana. Time will tell if the situation is tough on the streets of Louisiana for a while. Still, looking at the long-term benefits of the money freed up for prisoner education and re-entry, this struggling state’s future seems slightly brighter.

This article first appeared on Blogcritics.com.