Louisiana’s Legislative Agenda: A Critical Examination of the First 90 Days

Bruce Reilly Testifies Against Criminalizing Peaceful Protest

In the first 90 days of Louisiana’s legislative proceedings, a curious tone has emerged, marked by a series of bills and acts that demand scrutiny and reflection. From contentious changes in gun laws to sweeping reforms in criminal justice and education, the legislative agenda reflects a hyper-focus on certain issues while neglecting others of equal importance. The prioritization of punitive measures over rehabilitation in criminal justice reform and the erosion of civil liberties in the name of public safety raise concerns about the state’s moral compass and commitment to justice.

Let’s delve into the key highlights and implications of these legislative actions.

Gun Legislation:
The legislative session kicked off with a series of bills aimed at reshaping gun laws in Louisiana. Measures such as ACT 1, which permits concealed carry without permits or training, and SB 233, which mandates businesses to allow law enforcement to carry concealed firearms, reflect a concerted effort to expand gun rights. Additionally, SB 214 would allow concealed guns in restaurants that serve alcohol. The implications for public safety and individual liberties warrant careful consideration about collective security. 

Criminal Justice Reforms:
The legislative agenda also includes significant reforms in the realm of criminal justice. Acts such as ACT 13, which prosecutes all 17-year-olds as adults for all crimes, and ACT 8, which increases standard probation lengths and eliminates administrative sanctions for probation violations, signal a shift towards punitive measures over rehabilitation and second chances. The elimination of parole and Good Time, as well as the expansion of justifiable homicide laws, reflect a tougher stance on crime and punishment.

Social and Civil Liberties:
Legislative action has been targeting marginalized groups, such as transgender individuals (HB 608), sexual orientation discussions in schools (HB 122), and reproductive rights (HB 156). Bills like HB 122, which bars teachers from discussing sexual orientation, and HB 156, which forces teenage girls who are raped to carry their pregnancies to term, raise concerns about equality and individual autonomy. Additionally, restrictions on public records requests (SB 423) and limitations on peaceful protest (HB 127, HB 205) undermine transparency and freedom of expression.

Economic and Social Welfare:
The legislative agenda also addresses economic and social welfare issues, with bills impacting marginalized communities and social safety nets. Measures such as HB 303, which cuts SNAP benefits if a child is adjudicated for a crime, and HB 481, which cuts federal TANF benefits for those failing a drug test, raise questions about the state’s commitment to supporting vulnerable populations. The prioritization of corporate interests over public welfare, as seen in decisions regarding insurance regulations and federal funding for children’s food programs, raises questions about political priorities.

Bills like HB 71 and HB 745, mandating the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools and expanding voucher funding for private/religious/charter schools, highlight a push towards ideological agendas in education. The implications of these measures on the separation of church and state and the quality of public education merit further examination.

It seems they are hyper-focused on people such as: 

The neo-Nazi who intentionally drove into a protest, injuring many and killing another in Charlottesville; 

The police officer who kneeled on a man’s neck for 9 minutes in Minneapolis; 

The out-of-town teenager who shot and killed two protestors in Kenosha; 

The protestors who marched through the neighborhoods of Baton Rouge after the police killed an unarmed vendor; 

The self-appointed neighborhood security who killed Black teenagers in Florida and Georgia; 

Teachers who shed light on any uncomfortable aspects of history; 

Other people’s sexual identities; 

Journalists who seek public documents regarding government actions; 

People below the poverty line seeking federal support; 

The culpability of gun owners. 

In light of these legislative developments, it’s crucial for Louisiana residents to engage critically with their elected representatives and advocate for policies that reflect their values and interests. By staying informed and actively participating in civic discourse, citizens can shape the future of Louisiana and hold their leaders accountable to the principles of democracy and justice.

As Louisiana gets ready for another hurricane season, with Hurricane Ida (2021) insurance claims still in dispute, political leaders have decided that throwing ourselves at the mercy of a deregulated insurance industry is the way to save our homes. For a state that is so dependent on tourism dollars in the liberal and diverse city of New Orleans, where drinking is legal in the streets and live music can be heard on nearly every corner… it is wise for the passengers on this ship to question which direction the captain is taking us. 

Check out the full list of proposed bills below:

  1. Allow everyone over age 18 to carry a concealed weapon, with no permit, registration, nor training; ACT 1 
  1. Force all businesses to allow law enforcement (active or retired) to bring a concealed gun inside the premises; SB 233 
  1. Allow concealed guns in restaurants that serve alcohol; SB 214 
  1. Prevent civil liability of anyone who is injured or killed by people with concealed weapons; ACT 2  
  1. Reinforce State’s burden in proving someone did not act in self-defense; HB 819 
  1. Create a “justifiable homicide” where a driver runs over a pedestrian, protestor, or anyone in a roadway who made the driver afraid (and requiring no actual contact nor weapon); HB 355 (DEFERRED)
  1. Prevent civil liability where a fearful driver runs down a pedestrian, protestor, or anyone in a roadway; HB 383 
  1. Create a crime of conspiring or planning to block a roadway; HB 127 
  1. Expand racketeering laws to include protest planning; HB 205 
  1. Create a crime of protesting in a way that a resident’s peace is disturbed; HB 737 
  1. Criminalizes getting within 25-feet of a police officer; HB 173 
  1. Limit public records requests to resident citizens of Louisiana; SB 423 
  1. Require photo-ID for anyone requesting public records; SB 502 
  1. Exclude the Governor’s schedule from public records; SB 482 
  1. Publicly post the arrest of everyone 17 and over, including their mugshots; ACT 15 
  1. Prosecute all 17-year-olds in the adult system for all crimes; ACT 13 
  1. Drug test everyone who is arrested; ACT 4 
  1. Increase standard probation lengths from 3 years to 5 years; ACT 8 
  1. Eliminate administrative sanctions (and short jail stints) for petty violations of probation; ACT 8 
  1. Allow full revocation of probation (and sentence someone to 5 years prison) for an arrest, without needing a conviction; ACT 8 
  1. Amend the state constitution to allow an elimination of the juvenile criminal courts; HB 203 
  1. Allow children to be imprisoned in adult facilities; HB 210 
  1. Have the Governor appoint the Public Defender; ACT 22 
  1. Create a commission to procure funding for juvenile prison construction; SB 431 
  1. Allow for, and subsidize, hiring of police officers and sheriff’s deputies; Exec. Order
  1. Create a division of state police in New Orleans; Act 20 
  1. Create and fund Attorney General’s shadow prosecution office in New Orleans; Exec. Order, HB 1 
  1. Violate U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including Trump v. Missouri (2024), that prohibits states from putting qualification restrictions on candidates for federal office; HB 664 
  1. Violate the Louisiana Constitution Art. 1, Sec. 10.1 by adding additional restrictions on running for school board; HB 188 
  1. Create a gender-specific surgical punishment for men convicted of sex offenses; HB 166 
  1. Twenty-five year mandatory minimum for “detectable amount” of colorful fentanyl; ACT 19 
  1. Ten-year mandatory minimum for detectable amount of fentanyl that looks like a generic pill; HB 720 
  1. Eliminate parole; ACT 6 
  1. Eliminate Good Time; ACT 7 
  1. Criminalizes giving anything of value to panhandlers; HB 97 
  1. Creates $500m private/religious/charter school voucher funding; HB 745 
  1. Mandate the Ten Commandments be posted in every school; HB 71 
  1. Forego federal dollars for children’s food programs; Exec. Order 
  1. Automatically cut SNAP benefits if a child is adjudicated for a crime; HB 303 
  1. Allow up to 10 years in prison for a false statement in applying for workers comp. benefits; HB 247
  1. Cutting federal TANF benefits of anyone failing a drug test; HB 481 
  1. End mandatory meal breaks for child laborers who work over 5 hours; HB 156
  1. Force transgender people to use bathrooms, or live in quarters, that do not reflect their appearance, in schools, jails, shelters, and prisons; HB 608 
  1. Bar teachers from discussing sexual orientation; HB 122 
  1. Force teenage girls who are raped to birth their child; HB 156 
  1. Create an interstate compact on immigration enforcement, and violate U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including Arizona v. United States (2010), that preempt the state from regulating immigration; SB 388 
  1. Fund a deployment of Louisiana National Guard to Texas; Act 20 
  1. Call for two-week Constitutional Convention (this June) among the 144 Legislators and Governor’s appointees to be submitted to voters this October; HB 800 

2024 Department of Corrections Budget Breakdown 🕵🏽

Have you read the 2024 DOC Budget? We have. And we think you should too. Or at least some highlights. Snag our full 2024 DOC Budget Explainer, on our website: https://www.voiceoftheexperienced.org/s/2024_03-DOC-Budget-Explainer.pdf.

Our hope is to make the DOC Budget more transparent and accessible for our community including legislators, elected officials, media, reporters and investigators. We should all know where our tax dollars are and are not going. If our budgets are moral documents, let’s see where our morals lie.



Budget documents are one of the best ways to cut through the chatter and get down to the numbers. What are we trying to do, and how much are we spending on it? From the time Gov. Jeff Landry ran for office to the time he celebrated his “special crime” legislation, one would guess a few things based on not just his words and deeds, but the people around him.  

First, they believe that the way to prevent crime is to ensure someone is convicted, incarcerated, and not released for as long as possible so they can commit no more crimes (at least not until released). Second, they don’t believe in the concept of rehabilitation, change, second chances and helping people assimilate back into society. Finally, they are willing to write a blank check to achieve goal number one. With that said, it is increasingly difficult to understand the mission of the Department of Corrections if it reverts into a place of hopeless and brutal punishment that incites more crime than it prevents.  

What follows is a look into the overall funding, a framing of the incarceration industry as a Louisiana employer, and the peculiar usage of local jails to handle a state obligation. Download the full budget here

Despite the number of people incarcerated going down since the 2009 – 2012 peak, the cost of locking people up continues to climb past $1 billion dollars and beyond. 

One look at the overall budget, and it is clear prisons are a massive part of the statewide budget and are at no risk of being cut. 

To cover up this major expense, politicians might seek to focus on “user fees,” such as probation fees, canteen profits, telephone kickbacks, or medical co-pays. 

The users, however, are overwhelmingly penniless and it never adds up to any substantial percentage of the budget. 


Why is incarceration so steep? The majority of funding goes to staffing expenses (more on that below), and to the thousands of retired staff who continue collecting a pension. Unfunded Accrued Liability (“UAL”) is not our expertise, but this is the amount of expected monies owed that do not have funds set aside. You can see that the Corrections budget has over $103 million (18%) going to UAL and retiree’s insurance.  

Another major cost is medical care for patients in prison. According to the DOC, in their legislative presentation, total medical care spending is “somewhere around $100 million.” The monies are partly found in bills for people sent to the outside doctors, partly in the particular facility’s budget, and partly paid out to the local jails where people are detained.  

The Legislature’s 2024 Special Crime Session passed several new laws that should make the medical costs skyrocket as people get older. Eliminating parole (including medical and geriatric) and major cuts to Good Time credits will increase sentences. Narrowing parole for people already inside (unanimous parole decision) will turn other people’s sentences into Death Sentences. 

The Lewis v. Cain case on Angola’s unconstitutional health care is forcing that institution under federal receivership. Costs will go up as care becomes legitimate. And lawsuits should begin against every facility that houses people, as none of them provide anything close to a reasonable standard of care. 

In the Corrections budgets, you will see them broken out by the overall statewide administration, and then each of the facilities in the system. The Louisiana State Penitentiary, AKA Angola, has the most incarcerated people who are the oldest and most likely to die in custody. Every facility budget has a few things that stand out: 

  • Office of Risk Management fees (Angola: $12.9m) 
  • Medical services ($1.1m) 
  • Vehicle financing payments ($1m) 

Angola also has $1.6m going to Badge Ferry, which likely refers to the prison ferry that crosses the Mississippi River for employees. It is unclear if that ferry still operates, and it is well known most of the staff live at the penitentiary itself.  Angola’s budget is also peculiar in having costs for putting on the infamous rodeo, but it is unclear where the profits from these weekends fit into the budget. Meanwhile, every facility will put in costs for purchasing canteen supplies; however, if this is referring to the items incarcerated people are buying with their own funds, we know the prison runs an overall profit on that exchange. 

Looking at the overall summary, it is clear that another big piece is keeping the buildings functional, constitutionally compliant, and large enough to handle the influx of people. One shrinking part of the budget is in regard to Winn Correctional Center. In the Feb. 28 budget presentation at the Senate Finance Committee, it was noted that this prison is being leased out to the sheriff in Winn, “for about a million dollars.” It isn’t clear where that million is reflected. DOC Undersecretary Bickham explained to the House Appropriations Committee (March 6, 2024) that there is a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement in place, and the state can take control back from the Sheriff at any time, with roughly six months’ notice. 


According to the budget report, the mission of Winn Correctional Center is to ”house offenders for the Louisiana Department of Corrections.” However, it isn’t doing that. Instead, they are renting the beds out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During the Trump Administration’s massive border detention crackdown (which neither turned people back nor let them stay free pending their administrative hearing) Louisiana rented bed space to ICE for nearly 10,000 detainees. This is likely a large reason why the sheriffs had no qualms with the prison system contracting the way it did. The Feds pay a much higher rate per person. With that number coming down quite a bit, perhaps this contributes to why Gov. Landry deployed our National Guard to the Mexican border. 

We are unsure why ICE or Winn Parish Sheriff, who uses LaSalle Corrections to administrate the prison, would want to obscure any details in a contract between two public entities, but it appears that somewhere around $65m is transferred between federal public funds to Winn, according to the Sheriff’s budget report. The entire parish population is only 13,755, and likely includes the number of incarcerated people. It is easy to see why a sheriff’s $14m payroll, pensions, plus local contracts contribute to political influence. 

You may be wondering: Can the state lease out one of its facilities to a sheriff, who can then turn a profit with the federal government? And then pay for some incarcerated workers to help staff the facility? 

It’s important to understand the relationship between state and local facilities. These parish jails were built in bulk during a time when the state subsidized construction costs and guaranteed the population to be detained. A great summary of this process is in “Prison Capital” (2023) by Lydia Pelot-Hobbes, who was a recent guest on the “From Chains to Change” podcast (listen here). 

When the state facilities are bursting, the overflow goes to local jails run by sheriffs, with a per diem paid (less than half of what ICE pays the Winn Sheriff). Traditionally, the state/local balance was about 50/50, but taking Winn offline for state incarceration has led to the local jails holding more than the state prisons. While our prisons report only 781 total vacancies, and only 21 releases per day, the local housing has 7,322 vacancies. And naturally, the budget is confusing as to whether Winn is a state or local facility. 

At times, this math does not add up. Rep. Kimberly Coates (D-73) of Tangiapahoa brought up a dilemma in her parish. The local jail is full of state prisoners, for which the sheriff collects the per diem from the state. Meanwhile, there is not enough room for locally arrested people. This forces the parish (not the Sheriff) to pay $800,000 to ship these people out to other jails. 

Also noteworthy in the above graphic are the 1,456 “Re-entry participants” at regional programs inside the local jails. This is a fraction of the 11,870 people serving state time, but part of the programming funded by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). For those clamoring “JRI didn’t work,” we never once heard them criticize the sheriffs and their programming.  

The state has an operational carceral capacity of 14,359 (not including Winn), and 13,505 people are housed. Local jails, on the other hand, can hold 39,617 people, and only 12,885 are being held pre-trial. It is clear who stands to gain by decreasing the use of bail, increasing probation and parole violations, and lengthening sentences. And we also are unlikely to see them give back the $26m in savings from JRI. 

With the state prisons relatively stable in population, unless Winn’s lease is canceled, it is the local jails, run by sheriffs, whose funding was in jeopardy by increasing rehabilitation, decreasing recidivism, providing reentry support, scaling back discrimination, and downsizing prisons. The JRI funding to sheriffs was tailored to garner their support. 

For details on Industry Employment (p.11), Costs Beyond The Jail (p.16), and more, read our full explainer: https://www.voiceoftheexperienced.org/s/2024_03-DOC-Budget-Explainer.pdf.

Overview of Special Crime Session Laws PASSED ✍🏻

As anticipated, Louisiana’s Special “Crime Session” wrapped Thursday, February 29th with devastating speed. In just 10 days, almost the entire slate of proposed legislation passed. These bills will cost taxpayers millions while making us less safe and roll us back to failed policies of the past.

Here are 22 bills to be mindful of:

Act 1 / SB 1: Anyone over 18 (w/o felony conviction) can carry a CONCEALED FIREARM without a permit; can’t carry while under influence; can’t carry in church, parade, airport, place of worship, State Capitol, court, or wherever state/federal law prohibits (“gun free zones”). Any property owner or lessee can prohibit guns on property. (7/4/24) 

Act 2 / SB 2: GUN LIABILITY. No Liability for firearm if caused by “justified use of force or self-defense.” Does not cover gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or if convicted of felony (7/4/24) 

Act 3 / SB 9: SEX OFFENSE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS begins with any newly discovered photo/video evidence. 

Act 4 / HB 3: Opioid funds: Sheriffs DRUG TESTING all people arrested, within 24 hrs of booking; all positive tests are screened for substance abuse disorder and Drug Court eligibility; all found suitable for Drug Court shall be subject to Art. 904 (ineligible for Drug Court if charged w/ violent crime); test results inadmissible in any civil/criminal action (presumably probation/parole violations); all positive tests requires pretrial drug testing program; probation can be up to 8 years; completion of probation is eligible for expungement (but still counts as 1st offense for Habitual Offender tally) (7/1/24). Note: Mislabeled as “drug court expansion,” but any expansion requires additional funding by Legislature. 

Act 5 / HB 6: DEATH PENALTY methods: nitrogen gas and electric chair; process secret; Inspector General will review and certify the vendor of drugs is licensed and not connected to governor or legislators (7/1/24) 

Act 6 / HB 9: ELIMINATE PAROLE, (offense committed after 8/1/24) except under-18, Life or sentence over 25 yrs (25 yr eligibility), 1970s Lifers (currently eligible). (eliminates geriatric and medical; ends 20/45). Leaves only Good Time Parole release; effectively death penalty for anyone sentenced to over 50 years. 

Act 7 / HB 10: “Serve at least 85%” Can only earn Good Time credits up 15% of the sentence, plus up to one-year for program completions; no Good Time while on parole; pretrial Good Time credits still in effect (Art. 880). Applies to offenses committed after 8/1/24. 

Act 8: / HB 11: Increase maximum PROBATION from 3 to 5 yrs (unless in Drug Court’s 8 years); Probation can be extended for unpaid fines/fees; “compliance” requires paid fines/fees; no more Good Time credits; Judge can still early terminate at any time if in compliance; technical violations carry up to 90 days for 1st incident; misdemeanor possession of Marijuana still a technical violation; arrests (including misdemeanors) are subject to full revocation (do not need a conviction), court can order full revocation for Failure to Appear, violation of protective order, failing to complete drug program, failure to report for 120 days. (Offense committed after 8/1/24) 

Act 9 / SB 7: DWI – interlock devices on car for at least 6 months 

Act 10 / HB 4: D.A.s and judges lose discretion to waive procdural bars for out-of-time of repetitive POST-CONVICTION applications; no exceptions  

Act 11 / SB 5: UNANIMOUS PAROLE BOARD; must have 3 years without major infraction to be eligible (was 1 year); A.G. is also notified, all notices must be 90 days prior (was 60 days); parole decisions are void if notification requirements not followed; 3 year wait for rehearing if 1st offense violent crime; 5-year wait for other violent crimes and sex offenses; release date can be revoked prior to release; 

Act 12 / HB 23: All Challenges to CONSTITUTIONALITY of a statute must be served to the Attorney General, to which they have 30 days to reply. 

Act 13 / SB 3: LOWER THE AGE17-year-olds committing a crime after April 19, 2024 are adults. Jails and prisons still must adhere to “sight and sound” separation from people over 18. 

Act 14 / SB 4: JUVENILE mandatory minimum of 2 years on any second offense that is a violent crime (eligible for modification at 2 years, or 50% if sentenced under 36 months), must attain “low risk,” and either earned GED or in workforce training program, and recommendation of OJJ 

Act 15 / HB 1: “TRANSPARENCY” of court records. All criminal court clerks provide public access (via statewide online portal) to minute entries on all cases filed since 2020. No traffic violations. Includes juveniles arrested on violent crimes after Jan. 1, 2024 (can be sealed by a court). Data: Arrest, charging, bail decisions, hearings, identity of judge and prosecutor; clerks are immune from liability. Will expose people whose charges are dropped, including kids in school, and every criminal allegation or conviction for those 17 and up. 

Act 16/ HB 2: LIMIT LIABILITY of “peace officer” and their employers (includes Neighborhood Associations) unless criminal, fraudulent, or intentional misconduct. Gross negligence is now shielded, likely to impact traffic accidents with peace officers (and insurance claims). Police brutality claims can still proceed in federal court. 

Act 17 / HB 5: “Illegal use of weapon” (i.e. firing a gun in the air) is now a violent crime regardless of anyone being hurt.  

Act 18 / HB 7: Carjacking sentences raised: 20 – 30 years if serious bodily injury; 5-20 if not. (Most are charged under robbery statute anyways, carries up to 99 years). 

Act 19 / HB 8:  Possession w/ Intent, or distribution of FENTANYL: 25 – 99 years if “detectable amount” of fentanyl if the product or packaging has “reasonable appeal to a minor.” No minor need be present. No sale need happen. 

Act 20 / HB 19: FUNDING $3m to send National Guard to Texas; $600k to create new Public Defender in Gov. Branch; $22 million to State Police 

Act 21 / SB 10: NO GOOD TIME if 2nd (or more) violent crime; death of first responder = 1-day Good Time per month. 

SB 8: Moves PUBLIC DEFENDER under Executive Branch. Gov. Appoints statewide public defender, subject to approval by Senate majority and PD Oversight Board (9 board members, must have been lawyers for 8 yrs, 4 appointed by the Gov, including Chair; Gov selects one of 3 nominees by LACDL; Supreme Court appoints a retired judge and a juv. Justice advocate; 1 each from Senate President and Speaker of House); State Public Defender approves budgets of district defenders; public hearings for contracts with attorneys or indigent defender organizations, etc.; deletes policy of selecting proportionate minority / women lawyers; State defender must be Louisiana licensed, with 20 yrs experience and 7 years in criminal defense; District Defender contracts can only be 5 yrs max; district defenders stay employed; Oversight board establishes district defender compensation plan; Selection of new district defenders via Committee: one attorney and 2 registered voters from that district (1 appointed by state defender, 1 by district chief judge, 1 by Oversight Board) and submit 3 nominees to the State Defender. All contracts honored through Jun 30, 2024. 

“Crime Session” Recap: Week One

Week One wrapped this Friday and we have thoughts

This Governor and Legislature is reminiscent of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and their legislature in the days after October 7. There is a complete disregard for history and circumstances that precipitated the situation, and comprehensive problem solving has been replaced with blind rage and a violent counterattack. This session is about crime “reaction,” and nothing about crime “prevention.” 

Consider the bills, actions, and statements in totality: 

New Orleans will be occupied by a second layer of state police whose arrests will be handled by the state Attorney General. A message to law enforcement that they will have immunity from prosecution or lawsuits regarding brutality and rights violations (HB 2, SB 6). A State of Emergency was declared to allocate additional funding to hire more police and alleviate any restrictions on hiring them too quickly or without proper training. Meanwhile, a deployment of the National Guard to Texas indicates how quickly the Governor is to expend our resources on ideological pursuits.  

Police saturation is not based on any data correlation with safety and crime. Louisiana has more law enforcement per capita than anywhere in the world, including a police station inside the French Quarter (next to the Louisiana Supreme Court) and a second police station bordering the Quarter. Crime rates, which is the percentage likelihood that someone will fall victim of a crime, do not account for New Orleans commuters and visitors; thus, all of those “high” rates (based on number of residents) are false. Millions of visitors come and go without being scared, but that is not likely to be true if New Orleans begins to resemble the Palestinian West Bank. 

Thursday night Rep. Jason Hughes gave an impassioned speech pushing back on the characterization of New Orleans as a “wild west” place to fear, and questioned the details around the State Police “Troop” to be stationed in New Orleans. 

The expansion of Drug Court testing (HB 3) was a promising bill, however the hearing suggests this is simply a method of transferring millions of Opioid Litigation Settlement funds into the hands of sheriffs who will drug test everyone who gets booked into the jail. There is no talk of expanding Drug Court or expanding treatment, both of which are already at capacity, and there are no quality controls in place with sheriffs in Louisiana. Thus, it will be a handout, and testing will be relatively meaningless.  

Continue reading “Crime Session” Recap: Week One

Data Reality Check: Louisiana’s Criminal Legal System & the Legislature’s Proposed Reforms

As shared on our X account, @FIPVOTENOLA in 24 tweets, here are key data points that counter the recurring “soft on crime” narrative and highlight the consequences of proposed legislation.

HB 1: Over 55,000 charges were dismissed, among people with public defenders in 2023. Under HB1, these arrests are publicized and freely scraped off the internet.

SB 8: Indigent defense currently gets 32% of its revenue from “Conviction and User” fees, creating a conflict of interest for lawyers getting paid when a client is found guilty, rather than innocent. Under SB 8, Gov. Landry will appoint the state Public Defender.

JRI: The 2017 Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) impacted only non-violent offenses, and in the years since, people in prison have declined for all categories. Keep in mind that JRI programs did not begin until savings were converted into program and impact a few years later.

With reduction in people incarcerated, fewer people were sent into local jails (where over half of state prisoners serve). This resulted in significant lost revenue for sheriffs, which JRI stood to replace by funding local programs to help lower-level (and nonviolent) convictions

Despite added funding, jails do not offer nearly as many programs as state prison. JRI has had massive impact to increase that, but “savings” (JRI dollars) are expiring without reductions to incarceration. All progress is soon to be abandoned without a fiscal allocation.

None of the #CrimeSession bills provide any programming, nor fund prevention, rehabilitation, or reentry. However, the incarceration costs will soar at least $60 – $100m annually under the Governor’s package of bills. None of which acknowledges the Angola medical litigation.

Some legislators, rather than accept facts on recidivism going down (comparing apples to apples over time) would like to redefine the word “recidivism” while failing to provide their oranges to oranges data over time.

It is unclear which actual data visualization in reports by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the DOC, or Pelican Institute that people are not looking at, but the facts are facts.

Naturally, data sets can have imperfections (and we are all for better data), but that imperfection applies across the past 20 years. It can also be easy focus in on the less than 1% of cases that capture the public’s fury, as roughly 75% of crimes do not have a victim.

Keep in mind that the impact of reforms are typically a person being released a few months earlier than they would have. Someone serving 3 years on a nonviolent drug possession would be out on parole roughly 6 months earlier. Their success hinges on the supports, not the 6 months.

The clear #1 successful program is housing with an 89% success rate, even when over half of participants having a violent conviction. The Legislature can allocate funds here, and support Rep. Matt Willard’s bill to decrease discrimination for prospective tenants who are able to pay.

While programming has trended up under JRI, there is still hardly enough programs, practically zero substance abuse programming, and people serving the longer sentences will always be pushed back on waiting lists as others are closer to release.

With the majority of people held in local jails, JRI hasn’t had enough time to develop programming throughout the system. This begs for Equal Protection litigation for those held in jails, as fewer programs = less rehabilitation, longer terms, and worse results.

The primary programs under attack in the Governor’s push to “Stop Justice Reinvestment” will be the Reentry Programs, funded by JRI and run by sheriffs. It is unclear in this fast session if those programs will continue at all.

One reason for less recidivism is more supportive programs after release, even if only impacted a small portion of people. It should be no surprise that places such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge have lower recidivism rates because there is a broader and deeper network.

Despite seeing successes, the Crime Session does not invest in the things that decrease crime: Housing, jobs, mental health counseling, community health workers, opioid medication, substance use counseling, education, trauma care, restorative mediations, family reunifications…

Of the relatively few people able to learn a trade in prison, nearly a quarter were able to find a job in that industry. 80% of them did not return to prison.

The cost of incarceration is $37k per year, which is 9x the median wages of people who returned to prison, and nearly 3x the wages of people able to assimilate into the community. With robots, self-checkout, AI and jobs being exported, Louisiana is using prisons for excess labor.

Meanwhile, JRI youth programs show stellar success. However, the Louisiana legislature appears determined to halt any progress.

There are no glaring statistics about any specific age group. And with small numbers, a few successes or failures can seem like a major difference.

HB1: Despite juvenile crime going down, and 17 year olds being temporarily considered juveniles, the Crime Session will have impact kids who do not commit the most serious crimes, by publishing all arrests for violent crimes, and making petty offenses of 17 year olds “adult” crime.

It should concern everyone that the Crime Session is absent of actual data and lacks testimonies from the Legislative Auditor, DOC, judges, sheriffs, and other data analyst groups.

And even more concerning when the Violent Crime Task Force put out false narratives about people serving 15% of their time, on average; or people serving an average of 6 years on violent crimes [despite roughly 25% of people in Louisiana serving a sentence of Death in Prison].

Over 26% of Louisiana’s prison population (over half who are in sheriff’s jails) currently have over 10 years Time Served in prison. 10% of them have over 20 years in. Long sentences have increased, while short sentences decrease.

A Breakdown of All the Proposed LA “Crime Session” Bills

By Deputy Director Bruce Reilly

The Louisiana Legislature’s special “Crime Session” begins on Monday, February 19th, with committee hearings expected to happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. With the rules being suspended, a bill can pass out of committee in the morning and be heard on the Floor that afternoon. The next day it is likely in committee in the opposite chamber, with the process repeating. 

Twenty-four bills were filed in five committees, with half of them in the House Administration of Criminal Justice. See them all in VOTE’s 2024 Bill Tracker here

Below is a summary of the bills, organized by category, the largest being “Extending Sentences.” 


HB 1 requires court clerks to report all their docket entries to a public portal, including hearing dates, counsel of record, charges, bond set, sentences, continuances, and names of judges. This applies to all adult courts and juvenile cases in violent crimes and/or someone facing a second felony. Posting a juvenile’s pretrial information (while still holding the presumption of innocence) may violate a child’s right to privacy, and that will likely incite numerous lawsuits. This will be a very costly portal to create and maintain, all so people can easily look-up an arrest record of every Louisianan. HUD, and the FTC (who oversees background check databases under the Fair Credit Reporting Act) have on multiple occasions explained that arrests are not to be used as indicators of guilt, so it will be interesting to see how the state law “immunity” clause (for the Clerks of Court) plays out in federal court when someone sues a housing provider or employer for discrimination. 

Law Enforcement 

HB 2 and SB 6 limit law enforcement liability to actions that are criminal, fraudulent, or intentional misconduct. Considering nobody ever won a liability case against a police officer without proving one of those things, these bills are performative, with no real impact. Any officer accused of misconduct will still require a hearing to decide if it is “intentional.” SB 6 also bars any liability if the complainant is convicted of a crime. Thus, as long as there is a conviction, a police officer can violate someone’s rights in any number of ways. It is unclear how this intersects with criminal misconduct, or if a petty conviction will bury any and all abuses. Most people will file such a claim in federal court, where such a waiver will carry no weight. 

Drug Court 

HB 3: Mandatory drug testing and screening for specialty courts (by licensed professionals) is well intentioned. The actual impact on addiction recovery is far from clear. First, someone’s intoxication level within 24 hours of arrest is not a clear indication of their substance use, nor even if they were intoxicated while allegedly committing a crime. Drug Courts typically sentence people to an intensive outpatient regimen, and drug testing, over an 8-year probation term. Recovery and relapse are intertwined, thus the level of punishment (or support) someone receives if they slip up is the difference between Drug Court as a successful therapeutic model or simply as a gateway to prison. Having data on the preexisting Drug Court cases, including firsthand testimony, would help clarify the likely outcomes of expansion. Realistically, Louisiana can turn about a third of all judgeships into “drug court” if they truly want to handle the intersection between the desperation of drug use and crime. To tackle it correctly, however, we need an army of health care providers, treatment facilities, and medication assisted treatment. If the threat of prison alone kept us sober, we would be the straightest population on the planet. 

Wrongful Convictions 

HB 4 forces district attorneys and judges to object when a person files a post-conviction appeal that is after the filing deadline, if it had been heard before, or if over a year has passed since uncovering newly discovered evidence. This takes the discretion from judges and prosecutors who would only be allowing the case to be heard if they had serious doubts about the legitimacy of the conviction. It is a peculiar bill considering how often legislators say, “they trust their district attorney.” 

Extending Sentences 

HB 9 is the big one, as it eliminates parole eligibility on all crimes happening after 8/1/24, except for juvenile Lifers. The price tag on this will be enormous, including the medical costs, especially if it is determined that it overrides medical furloughs and release. 

SB 5 impacts all the parole-eligible people currently in prison and requires a board to be a unanimous vote for release. One member of the board could single-handedly block every release. The bill also requires someone to go 3 years without a serious discipline infraction, rather than the current 2 years. The parole board only releases about 2% of the 15,000 people who get out every year, each of them typically showcasing impeccable behavior and an impressive institutional resume. For people with extreme sentences, it is typically the only way they can be released. The bill also makes someone wait an additional 4 years after denial to be reconsidered. The final paragraph of the bill, although slightly vague, suggests the Board will have the power to rescind any parole decision at any time in the future “for any reason deemed appropriate by the committee.” This may run afoul of the Supreme Court’s principles in Morrissey v. Brewer, and how Due Process (not the whims of a king) govern such a liberty interest. 

HB 5 adds a 61st crime to the list of “violent crimes” (R.S. 14(2)(b), which are then ineligible for things such as Good Time or parole and become enhancers for Habitual Offender multipliers. The law defines “illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities” as an illegal or negligent discharge of a firearm (or use of an article or substance) where it is foreseeable that it may result in death or great bodily harm. Another example of how many ways someone can be charged for the same action. 

HB 7 essentially doubles the sentences for carjacking, with mandatory minimums of 5 years where no serious injury and 20 years with serious injury. It raises the maximums to 20 and 30 years respectively. 

HB 8 creates a 25-year mandatory minimum for a “detectable amount” of fentanyl whenever it is added to something that is “attractive to minors.” This vague phrase includes things that are in the shape of animals, vehicles, or candy. It is difficult to imagine this law holding up in court, if it is used, considering that basic adult vitamins, for example, look like candy. More to the point, however, this is another example of how we are punishing our community members who have an addiction problem rather than providing opioid antagonists and residential treatment. A 30-year-old parent who gets hooked on fentanyl won’t be eligible for release until they are 55 in this scenario. 

HB 10 mandates that sentences after 8/1/24 will earn a maximum of 15% Good Time credits. This means that, if they do not get any write-ups, they will serve 85% before being released on Good Time Parole Supervision (GTPS). With the elimination of discretionary parole eligibility under HB 9, this will be the only path to release short of 100% of a sentence. People sentenced to 40 years or more will likely die in prison. This bill also ends Good Time credits for people on parole. If they are violated, they will serve the full-term in prison, with no credit for time on the street. This may result in people turning down GTPS release altogether. 

HB 11 increases the maximum probation term from 3 years to 5 (except Drug Court, which can be 8). Based on data and research, this term was reduced because by year 4, people had generally either succeeded or failed. The extra years were simply unnecessary labor for probation officers, and subjected people to petty infractions and fees rather than being able to move on. The bill also increases the penalties for technical violations: up to 90 days in jail. It also reduces what is a “technical” violation, including how an “attempted misdemeanor” would be subject to a full revocation instead. Its unclear what would be good examples of such an act. 

HB 13 pushes for anyone convicted of a violent crime while in prison to lose all their Good Time. This bill seems redundant, particularly if someone is earning just a small amount under HB 10. Good Time credits can already be deducted by a disciplinary action without needing the trouble of a trial and conviction for assaulting someone. 

HB 14 “Dangerous Offender” bill is redundant to HB 10, which would require everyone to serve at least 85% before GTPS release. Under this bill, a judge can deem someone a “dangerous offender” if they have one prior conviction for violence, sex, or drug distribution. This would require them to serve 85% of their time. 


SB 3 reverses the “Raise the Age” law which puts 17-year-old kids in the juvenile system. The law took five years to phase in, but Louisiana did nothing to expand the juvenile system to absorb those court cases and kids in custody. With extra space in adult jails and prisons, Louisiana prefers to return to the old ways. This change complicates things for wardens who must keep the 17-year-olds separate from the actual adults and coincides with Louisiana building more juvenile prisons. Thus, there will be even more space for 14-16 year olds across the state in a system with 300% turnover in their staff and a newly appointed head of the Office of Juvenile Justice who was notoriously involved in sexual abuse scandal with the kids. 

SB 4 will make it more difficult for kids to get a second chance through the courts. Any child seeking a sentence modification must serve at least 3 years in prison (or 2/3 the sentence if shorter than 3 years). This will prevent judges from recognizing positive rehabilitative changes amongst children who are deep in their developmental stage. 

Death Penalty 

HB 5 creates absolute secrecy over who executes the people on Death Row and where they get the lethal substances. It also adds nitrogen hypoxia as an approved method of killing someone. Realistically, it should be the Governor who executes a person, as they alone have the power to not kill someone. 

Indigent Defense 

SB 8 moves public defenders from the independent “Board” into an executive state office. The Governor would appoint a head of the office who has 20 years’ experience as a barred attorney, with 7 years in criminal defense. This would be more experience required than the Attorney General and Louisiana judges, and it isn’t clear how the 7 years in defense would be calculated. The extreme requirement is likely intentional. The Chief Defender would hire an executive staff, and then contract with local head public defenders who (apparently) are nominated by a selection committee of one lawyer and two registered voters. It remains to be seen (if passed) who would be providing the constitutionally guaranteed right to effective defense counsel, and how flush (or starved) their budgets. It is likely that lawsuits are filed based on conflicts of interest and falling short of the 6th Amendment rights. For a chief executive who appoints the heads of the State Police and the Department of Corrections, a former Attorney General who successfully advocated for the State Police and A.G. to have criminal divisions in New Orleans (for starters): this has a massive appearance of impropriety. 


HB 12 and SB 1 make it so any 18-year-old can hide a gun under their jacket, even if they have a documented mental illness or substance use issue. The only people prevented would be those with a felony record. It will certainly cause distress for gas station employees, Lyft drivers, and others who may rightfully question the intention of someone packing heat. How police officers, security guards, and business owners react will range from strict “No guns allowed” signs to shooting anyone considered armed and dangerous. It is difficult to imagine there being less shootings in Louisiana under such a law. 

SB 2 takes away liability for conceal carry owners unless there is gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or a criminal act. This would put the onus on courts and juries to define gross negligence if an unlocked gun is stolen and used criminally.  


HB 15 is a reasonable amendment to the law. The 6-year time limit to charge someone for 3rd Degree Rape does not begin until after the crime is discovered by the victim. 

SB 7 increases the usage of ignition interlock devices for DWI punishments. The sentence for .08 (the standard for “drunk driving”) from 90 days to 180. Realistically, DWI laws are among the few criminal laws that take a reasonable approach to balancing freedom, the right to work, and accountability for a dangerous situation. If only all parts of the criminal code were addressed as such. 

Governor Landry has increased two parts of the state budget: prisons and the state police. He also recently issued a state of emergency that allows sheriffs to hire more people and receive more pay. The public concern about the incoming administration is well placed, as he continues to fight all regulations on clean air, clean water, and land pollution. It also appears public education and health care, already abysmal in Louisiana, are further on the chopping block. In a state so committed to force women to have babies, one might wonder what vision they have for such children. 

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated. Join us at the Capitol Tuesday, February 20th for our VOTE Crime Session Advocacy Day.

VOTE Responds to LA Violent Crime Task Force Report

Dear Members of the Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF), 

Thank you for posting the Draft Report under HR 168. After thoroughly reviewing the report and examining the data in the public folder, please find the comments from Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) below, addressing specific sections of the Draft Report: 

Addressing Violent Crime 

The purpose of the HR 168 task force is “to study and evaluate recent legislative reforms to the Louisiana criminal justice system and the effects of such reforms on public safety and crime in Louisiana,” and make legislative recommendations for “criminal justice reform that reduces crime and recidivism in Louisiana while improving public safety and strengthening our communities.” However, the task force falls short by focusing on only a few reforms, neglecting hundreds of others, and potentially misinterpreting data. This narrow focus, combined with the conflation of data sets, leads to questionable and dangerous conclusions about the relationship between sentencing reforms and new crime. 

Importantly, the VCTF crunches two data sets together, incarceration and crime, and implies a causality that has not been proven. The task force erroneously correlates the rise in crime with an increase in parole, implying causality without evidence. First, you would need to show that there are more people on parole (there are not) and second you would need to show that these people on parole are at the heart of a spike (you have not). In fact, members of the VCTF have claimed that there are not enough parole violations. 

There are two types of reasons someone on parole can be returned to jail or prison, for a “New Crime” or for a “Technical Violation.” The first one will get their parole revoked along with an additional new sentence. The second, a technical violation, is when there is no new crime, but they violated the terms of their parole- often related to living conditions, jobs, travel, or a failed drug screen. Technical violations do not drive up crime rates. Sometimes such people will have parole revoked and sometimes they will get “sanctions” of several days in jail. 

The VCTF also fails to distinguish between “all crime” and “violent crime.” It is well established that people who have four or more felony convictions are nearly always those people who struggle with mental health and/or addiction. Often, such people will have no victim in their cases other than themselves, and potentially low-level property offenses. It appears that the VCTF’s goal is to lock away the problem and not seek to address it. It would be negligent and backwards if Louisiana’s best solution to mental health and addiction issues is incarceration in the form of psych prisons and addiction prisons. 

The VCTF possesses more data than a “hunch,” as to the relationship between sentencing reforms and new crime. There have been no changes in the law that prevent a prosecutor from charging someone with a violent crime, regardless of whether they were 12 years old or convicted five times before. 

The task force suggests punitive measures without addressing root causes, such as mental health, addiction, poverty and lack of tools for conflict resolution. Instead of proposing solutions, it leans towards incarcerating individuals without considering alternative interventions. The need for programs that mediate disputes, provide outlets for children’s anger, and offer support to struggling families is crucial. 

To tackle violent crime effectively, the legislature should focus on addressing the underlying factors that contribute to criminal behavior. This involves creating decent job opportunities, affordable living conditions, and accessible mental health resources. The desperation of poverty creates a confined list of poor choices. When someone’s parent(s) are incarcerated, or struggling with poverty, mental health, or addiction: those children get a daily education in a harsh world. There is a reason that most of the violence is perpetrated by young people whose minds are not fully developed, and who have a limited view of the possibilities. They act impulsively and are often put in dilemmas far beyond their years to navigate. 

If the legislature is serious about preventing violent crime, it is critical Louisiana political leadership call upon people with firsthand experience in violence and its consequences. Impacted people are not just credible messengers to reach young people acting out of hopelessness and anger, Louisiana needs their insights as to how we can address the critical factors that can save lives. Humans are not robots to program or dogs to whip into submission. We are complex emotional creatures, and we will all sink or swim together. 

Addressing specific parts of the Draft Report: 

  1. Has violent crime gone up, or has the Legislature simply labeled more crimes as “violent?” 

First, it should be noted that crime is down from last year, across Louisiana and across the nation. For example, New Orleans has seen such dramatic decreases in violent crime between 2022 and 2023:     

  • Homicides decreased by 27% 
  • Carjackings dropped by 43% 
  • Armed robberies were down by 35% 
  • Nonfatal shootings decreased by 23% 

All of these improvements occurred while the New Orleans Police Department has been experiencing an unprecedented staffing shortage. This suggests there is less connection between law enforcement and violence as some would believe. And although some equate the crime spike coincided with the COVID-19 epidemic to “less policing” or “delayed trials,” the more thoughtful connection is regarding employment, housing stability, recreational activities, school closures, and more. 

Statistically speaking, violent crime data will inherently change if we redefine “violent crime.” Many citizens would likely be surprised to learn that Louisiana classifies 60 offenses as “violent crime.”  These offenses include high profile and extreme scenarios like murder, rape, and robbery, but also lesser offenses such as 2nd degree battery, violating a protective order, and possession of a firearm (in certain circumstances). Re-classifying crimes into the “violent” category of R.S. 14.2 does not make crime go up or down but does create apples-to-oranges comparisons over time. If there were 40 crimes, for example, in 2004, then a twenty-year comparison would be adding 20 new offenses to the data set. 

According to the 2022 JRI Report: 

  • The largest increase in Types of Crimes is “Possession of Firearm by Felon” – from 1,028 (2016) to 2,009 (2021).  Because this is categorized as a “violent crime” under Louisiana R.S. 14.2(57), it creates a significant uptick in “violent crime” whether a person was harmed by the firearm or not. As a staunch 2nd Amendment rights state, it is unclear what impact that culture has on gun ownership. 
  • By contrast, the next largest (and one of few) increases by crime type was Possession of Schedule II Drug, from 926 to 1,427, respectively. Roughly half the increase of the possession of a firearm. 
  • 1700 people were sentenced to probation for “violent crimes.” This indicates prosecutors and judges agreed that the offense, although classified as “violent,” was not so egregious as to warrant imprisonment (although surely many served multiple months in pretrial detention before their probation sentence). 
  1. Several Draft Report claims do not seem supported by the data 

The report reads: 

  1. “Length of time served by an inmate is actually less than 15% of their actual sentences.”  

According to the DPSC Table 1.f “Time Served,” and Table 1.e “Sentence Length,” we get a snapshot of incarcerated people, but not the percentage of their overall sentence served upon release. If the VCTF can point to a specific data point revealing this 15% number, please do. 

Among those incarcerated: 

  • 60.4% served 0-5 years  
  • 14.1% are 6-10 years 
  • 25% served over 10 years 

This leads us to another peculiar statement in the Report: 

  1. “Moreover, the data shows that less than 5% of Louisiana’s prison population is serving more than thirty years.”  

How is this remotely true, when the data clearly shows 11.3%?  [See Table 1e]  

  • 6.6% are serving 0-2 years 
  • 7% serving 3-4 years 
  • 29.7% 5-10 years 
  • 19.8% 11-20 years 
  • 25.3% 21-30 years 
  • 7.7% 31-50 
  • 3.6% 51+ 

The statement is especially misleading when an additional 25% are sentenced between 21-30 years. Thus, well over a third are sentenced to longer than a generation.  

Continuing the odd choice of data: 

  1. “[T]he average time served by a violent offender is less than six years.” 

This should be changed to, “among those released on a violent crime, they served an average of 64.3 months on a sentence averaging 122.9 months (about 10 years).” The sentence may need an * as the data in the 2022 JRI Report (p. 46, Table 15) may be omitting Life Sentences and discretionary parole altogether. This is nowhere near the 15% figure noted above. 

Additionally, only 17% of people released from prison are for violent offenses.  

The average time served before discretionary parole on violent offenses is 261.3 months, or nearly 22 years. This is only a few dozen people. Perhaps the VCTF can calculate the time served prior to death within the data. 

III. Recidivism data matters- and Report claims need support 

A. “55% recidivism for Habitual Offender class after 5 years.” 

This statement deserves context. 

As the table below [compiled from various data tables DPSC provides] indicates, all recidivism has gone down over the past decade, with some sub-populations dropping more than others. While 4th offenses is at 55%, 3rd offenses are only at 24%. It is also unclear by the DPSC data how many people fit this most extreme data point. And as noted above, people in this class are typically saddled with an addiction or mental health situation that requires treatment to overcome. 

People who have served over 7 years in prison have less than 3% recidivism, with those who spent over a decade at less than 1%.  Considering the average release time on a violent offense is over 5 years, there is certainly a significant overlap here. This erodes the notion that “violent recidivism” is a driver of incarceration growth or spikes in crime. 

People released after violent offenses have lower recidivism (37%) than those released on nonviolent offenses (40%), on a consistent basis over the years.  

The recidivism rooted in education completion has had the most drastic impact (from 44% down to 29%), likely attributable to both the quality of education available and the expansion of opportunities over the years (such as licensing reform and Ban the Box policies), including policy reforms attributable to a bipartisan Louisiana Legislature. 

The parole board has 22% recidivism amongst a tiny sample, while the massive number of people completing Probation or Parole (20,188) have just 12% recidivism. 

The gap between getting out of jail vs. prison is growing, with people having more success leaving the latter. This likely stems from the programming, education, and recreational activities in prison. 

Population Subset  2012 Releases 5th yr Returns 2017 Releases 5th Year Returns 
Total Releases (baseline) 14,487 43.6% 14,460 40.3% 
GoodTime Parole (auto) 11,808 45.1% 12,620 41.5% 
NonViolent Offenses 11,943 44.4% 11.833 40.9% 
Education completion 1,345 44.7% 974 29% 
Released Local Jail 8,441 46.2% 9,566 43.3% 
Released State prison 3,080 43.4% 2,197 35.3% 
Completed P&P 19,017 15% 20,188 12.9% 
Work Release 2742 37.7% 2,849 36.4% 
Parole Board 825 38.5% 288 22.2% 
Violent offenses 2,551 40% 2,627 37.6% 
Under 1 yr served    51.6% 
1-3 yrs    32.4% 
3-7 yrs    11.7% 
7-10 yrs    2.7% 
Over 10 yrs    Under 1% 
Jefferson P.    31.7% 
Orleans P.    33.7% 
EBR    36% 
Caddo    45.7% 
Livingston    46.2% 
1st Offense    4.7% 
2nd Offense    16.1% 
3rd Offense    24% 
4th Offense   55.2% 

Livingston (20.8%) and Ouachita (22.8%) Parishes have nearly double the Statewide 1st year recidivism (13.8%), which is 5% in Orleans and 8.8% in Jefferson, suggesting that access to resources plays a major role in stability. Among the DPSC listed parishes: Bossier, Lafourche, Ouachita, Rapides, Terrebonne, Caddo, and Livingston all have over 41% recidivism after 5 years. 

According to the Draft Report:  

B. “LDAA shared that 55% of 1,948 people who benefitted from early release under JRI were arrested”  

Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) data set was not provided, or not posted to the Task Force folders. 

Arrests are not convictions, nor are they P&P violations (although they could be), as people carry the presumption of innocence. It is troubling that government lawyers would provide such data when they could easily provide conviction or revocation data instead, as DPSC has done. 

2017 release data (above) shows 14,460 people; meaning that 12,512 people were released without the benefit of JRI. Thus, 86% of the people released did not get the benefits of JRI reforms. And those who got the “benefits” mostly were released a matter of weeks or months earlier than otherwise. There is ZERO spike in 2017 recidivism data, and this is part of a consistent trend over the previous decade. 

Similarly, where is the LDAA data that indicates:  

C. “1/3 of those [1,948 JRI impacted] released had been arrested for violent crimes and sex offenses.”  

Is the point of this to mean they were originally in prison for violent or sex crimes, and JRI reforms allowed them to be released weeks or months sooner? Or is VCTF/LDAA stating that over 600 of this specific cohort has been re-arrested for one of the 60 violent crimes or a sex offense? It is unclear, but again: arrests are a poor form of data when believing in the legal system that relies on either a guilty plea or a trial conviction. This data is not in the folder. 

  1. “JRI reforms, which made it much more difficult to revoke an offender’s probation of parole sentence for violations of their supervision, led to an approximately 50% reduction in probation revocations between 2016 and 2020.” 

What specifically made it “more difficult?”  

Fewer revocations may also mean fewer violations of supervision. Would the Task Force be satisfied if revocations were trending upward, thereby implying supervision does not work? 

According to the 2022 JRI Report: Probation revocations for New Criminal Activity have steadily declined from 1,133 (2016) to 836 (2021). Other revocations have similarly declined (GTPS, Parole, Technical Violations). (p.12 Fig. 4) 

The average sentence length for new felony admissions (for those on supervision) is 64.5 months (about 5 and a half years). This implies that many must be sentences under 5 years, including many nonviolent crimes. 

The shortest stint are technical probation violations (no new crime committed)- averaging 49.3 months in 2021. Thus, a technical probation violation and a new felony admission are (on average) only 15 months apart. GTPS revocations are 85.4 (2016) and 58.5 months (20, respectively, in 2021. (Fig. 12) 

Habitual Offender sentences decreased, but the length stayed relatively stable. In 2016, 466 sentences averaged 124.8 months. A decline in usage at first saw a spike in sentencing, then 2021 dropped to 89 sentences averaging 119.4 months. 

Juvenile Crime 

Regarding juvenile violent crime, it is impossible to assess any changes without breaking out crimes committed by age group. From 2016 to 2023, the number of juveniles adjudicated of a violent offense increased from 1,408 to 2,199. Were those seven hundred 17-year-olds? 

Did 17-year-olds commit MORE crimes after being moved into the juvenile system? The same? Fewer? Of course, all the numbers went up. First, Louisiana moved the most criminally active of all age groups under 18 into the juvenile system. Second, Louisiana made no changes in the number of judges, lawyers, and carceral facilities despite years of phasing in the “Raise the Age” legislation. 


Based on the data provided, the past decade has seen a reduction in both crime and punishment. We should not legislate based on salacious stories and extreme examples. We must work to create more opportunities for people to become better people and then accept them back into our community when that happens. It is the only way to reverse cycles of trauma, poverty, and violence. 


Bruce Reilly 

Deputy Director 

Voice of the Experienced 

Advocating for True Representation and Mental Health Justice: VOTE Opposes the Disastrous “Phase III” Expansion of OJC

Who represents the civil rights of the people incarcerated in New Orleans’ jail? They don’t know. Do you? 

Voice of the Experienced surveyed people incarcerated at OJC about the consent decree and their experiences with mental health care in the jail.

“Who are these people? OJC is understaffed and run terribly. Why would you need another jail?” 

– Community Member incarcerated 5 years at OJC, in response to our inquiry on the civil rights lawyers representing them

“No one residing at OJC has been informed of the civil rights case before 7/11/2023, when these surveys were issued. The mental health staff to resident ratio is way too large. The staff is not equipped to deal with the amount or level of mental health issues of residents. Medication services are sporadic and not on a reliable schedule.”

Community Member incarcerated 16 months at OJC, diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Expecting to leave OJC “within a year or two.” 

AUGUST 1, 2023—In the ongoing saga of the proposed $110 million dollar Orleans Justice Center (OJC) expansion, a critical question remains unanswered: who truly represents the people incarcerated in our jail?  

We, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), raise strong concerns about the representation of the community most impacted – the people currently incarcerated and who could be incarcerated at OJC – by the MacArthur Justice Center (MacArthur). The 2012 federal court Consent Decree was intended to bring meaningful change to the abhorrent jail conditions in New Orleans and meet standards mandated by the United States and Louisiana constitutions. But instead, it has devolved into a labyrinth of murky intentions and questionable judgment that we believe would make mental healthcare at the jail worse

More than a decade into the litigation, at least 100,000 people have been in that jail, held for periods ranging from a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months. We are totally surprised that MacArthur supports a $110 million panopticon jail expansion to house a few dozen people with serious mental illnesses (SMI).  It is understandable for others to put weight in their opinions, as MacArthur is tasked with representing the incarcerated people inside the jail. We have heard Judge Africk, Magistrate North, and City Council give credence to what the jail’s incarcerated people want (which is rarely the case for people in jails and prisons). We hope such deference continues after reading this letter.  

Our concerns have reached the point that we feel the necessity to raise them in a public forum. The fate of our jail and its population should not be directed through private court deliberations limited to pleadings by a few lawyers, but in public dialogue. This is for the people of New Orleans. 

Historical trends in Orleans Parish pretrial jail population. Source: Vera Institute of Justice
Screenshot captured 08-01-2023, 11:44 am. Source: Criminal Justice Committee Jail Dashboard

A Brief History of the Orleans Parish Prison / Orleans Justice Center Consent Decree

“I’m unsure of what that means.”

– Community Member at OJC, when asked about the “Consent Decree.”

The Consent Decree is an agreement, overseen by a federal judge, of a 2012 class-action lawsuit brought forth by a group of 10 incarcerated whistleblower plaintiffs in Orleans Parish who had the courage to speak out on the dangerous conditions and lack of mental healthcare treatment in the jail. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) originally represented these individuals.  Within a year and a half, when the original lead attorney switched organizations, MacArthur replaced SPLC’s representation of them. 

At the time this litigation was initiated, the jail regularly detained roughly 3,600 people. Conditions in the jail were so egregious that the federal government moved to join the plaintiffs to sue Sheriff Gusman, following an independent investigation conducted by the Department of Justice. By the end of the year, these three parties entered into a federal court Consent Decree, agreeing to work together to make the jail conditions in New Orleans constitutionally compliant (which is still a very low standard of existence). 

Importantly, the Consent Decree acknowledges that the “Plaintiff” class now represented by MacArthur consists of “all individuals who are now or will be imprisoned” in the Orleans Parish Jail.  This court document starkly contrasts with MacArthur’s regular claim that they solely represent the individuals currently in the jail.  

Continue reading Advocating for True Representation and Mental Health Justice: VOTE Opposes the Disastrous “Phase III” Expansion of OJC

VOTE Statement on NOLA Coalition and Police Surveillance

Since the New Orleans City Council put their early focus on crime and public safety, our position has been the need to invest in our kids and the agencies best positioned to support and empower those kids. We gave nearly an hour of testimony to that point, and recently signed a letter drafted by VERA and submitted to Mayor Cantrell. VERA, and many of those signatories, are organizations we know and work with, and have been aligned for years.

The NOLA Coalition is a new idea created by people we do not know. We voiced our support for $15 million to “strengthen social services to support our youth.” It appears they took our name, along with many others, and applied it to a two-part plan we had no role in forming, and never saw until it after it was released. A staple of that plan is increasing the surveillance state in New Orleans. Although NOLA Coalition’s website refers to ”collective input,” we were neither asked for it, nor gave it. But we will give it now.

The NOLA Coalition is a new idea created by people we do not know.

Cameras don’t stop people from the desperation, incitement, poverty, and trauma that causes crime. Tapping our phones is a gross overreach of our civil liberties. Gunshot “detection” is a fraudulent technology that leads to illegal stops and searches that take us deeper into a police state. ”Predictive policing” only reinforces the racially profiled policing used to collect data; for example, if nobody is arresting people on Tulane and Loyola campuses for drugs or sexual assault, then no computer model will ”predict” drug use or sexual assault on the campus of Tulane or Loyola… thus no deployment of police. And in case people forgot, the highest crime rates New Orleans has known was during the ”Tough on Crime” era of hyper-policing and brutal sentences after non-unanimous jury trials.

We encourage people to stay in dialogue, to watch “Katrina Babies,” and to engage the issue of public safety that does not rely on stacking our children up like firewood, closing the door, and walking away. Bridge City quit on rehabilitation for our youth. Many of our schools seem to have quit on kids who struggle as well. Any City Council member, Mayor, District Attorney, or Judges who quit on our kids of New Orleans should quit their job. It is difficult, but this is the work.

Rest In Power, Albert Woodfox (1947-2022)

The entire VOTE family is extremely saddened by the recent home going of Albert Woodfox. His power, insight, and inspiration has provided Movement energy far beyond one solitary prison cell for decades. “Fox” was a Brother to us all, and a leader within the penitentiary since before his global identity with the ”Angola 3.” We will carry his message of human rights forward, fighting to end oppression and injustice, and attempt to replicate his steadfast determination.   

It is a mark of shame that our society would put a man in solitary confinement for 43 years, lacking in health care, exercise, and human contact. It takes a toll on one’s physical, mental, and spiritual self. For Albert to fight back against that torture, and stay incredibly active after his release, is a testament to our human potential.  

For the past six years, Albert was with us every step of the way, even as he shared himself worldwide. Anyone who has read his book ”Solitary,” nominated for the National Book Award, has certainly gained a better understanding of America, and our deepest selves. Our comrade, friend, and fallen soldier would want us to band together more than ever to bring an end to the oppressive penal system that has so thoroughly decimated our families and communities. 

Rest In Power.