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

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. 

Trials, Tribulations, and More Jails?


Jail versus Prison

First off, let’s get something out of the way. Jails and prisons are not the same things. A jail is defined as a place for people who are awaiting trial or held for minor crimes. Prison is defined as a place where people who have already been convicted of a serious crime are being held. We aren’t coming up with our own definitions, this is straight out of a Merriam-Webster dictionary. It doesn’t get more definitive than that. Although they function as two different things, people often use them interchangeably, which is a serious problem. 

Is East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Actually a Prison? No.

Words mean things.

Some people may be surprised to learn that the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is not actually a prison. It’s a pre-trial facility, meaning the people being held there have not yet been convicted of anything. So why do they call it a prison when it’s actually a jail? The fix to this problem is quite simple. The Baton Rouge Metro Council has the power to change the name.

Calling it a prison when it is in fact a jail not only harms those being held there but also tarnishes the way people on the outside view what happens within the facility. Last year a study conducted by Professor Andrea Armstrong from the College of Law at Loyola University revealed that the EBR Parish [Jail] had more deaths than any other parish in the state. Since 2012 there have been 57 deaths within the pre-trial facility.

“To me, this is not a problem, this is a pattern. And we need to attack it now. When we have 1, 2, 3 people who are overdosing in our facility that is supposed to be pre-trial, we have a real problem.”

—Amelia Herrera, VOTE Organizer.

Read more here.

Continue reading Trials, Tribulations, and More Jails?

SCOTUS is Waging a War on Our Rights


SCOTUS: Louisiana Congressional Map

Last week, the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) reinstated Louisiana’s racist map, drawn by Republican legislators earlier this year. 

“District Court Judge Shelly Dick, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled earlier this month that the map likely violated the VRA. Under the map lines, one of the state’s six districts is majority Black, even though approximately one-third of the state’s population is Black. Republicans have a 5-1 advantage in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, with Democratic Rep. Troy Carter representing the one majority-Black seat. Dick had ordered the Louisiana legislature to redraw the map with a second heavily Black district.

The Supreme Court’s stay of that order likely resolves the last redistricting challenge outstanding ahead of the midterms, locking in 50 states’ worth of congressional lines with a little over four months to go until the November election.” – Politico

Read more here.

SCOTUS: Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez

If you thought these Supreme Court Justices were going to stop at abortion rights, you are sadly mistaken. This decision led by Justice Clarence Thomas didn’t get much news coverage, but it will affect millions of Americans who encounter the criminal legal system. 

Continue reading SCOTUS is Waging a War on Our Rights

Sine Die & LGBTQ+ Youth in Prisons

“Adjournment sine die is the conclusion of a meeting by a deliberative assembly, such as a legislature or organizational board, without setting a day to reconvene.” So, what’s next?

Legislative Updates


HB 707, sponsored by Rep. Royce Duplessis, would have automated the expungement process for low-level records. Specifically, (1) arrests that did not lead to conviction, (2) misdemeanors, 5 years since the end of the sentence, (3) felonies eligible for “first offender pardon,” (4) non-violent felonies, 10 years since the end of the sentence.

The bill ultimately failed to receive enough votes to make it out of the Senate. Right now, it costs roughly $550 on top of an attorney, to get someone’s record expunged. This makes it incredibly difficult and virtually impossible for many low-income people to have their records cleared. We have been in a 4-year battle for this bill and will continue to fight for it. HB 707 failed with a vote of 42 yeas and 57 nays.

You can attend JAC’s next expungement clinic at our VOTE office in New Orleans on July 13th. For more information, click here.


HB 746, by Rep. Royce Duplessis, limits the amount of time a juvenile can be placed in solitary confinement. The bipartisan bill passed the House with a vote of 84 yeas and 11 nays, then passed the Senate with a vote of 32 yeas and 0 nays. HB 746 was amended twice while Duplessis worked with stakeholders, including the Office of Juvenile Justice. The bill has been sent to the Governor and is waiting on executive approval.

Continue reading Sine Die & LGBTQ+ Youth in Prisons

It’s the Final Week of This Legislative Session!

Legislative Updates


HB 517 creates a Medical Advisory Committee within the D.O.C that will report quarterly to the Department of Health. Medical and administrative staff will be hired across 8 facilities and provide constitutional medical care for incarcerated individuals. This is a huge win, for far too long those of us on the inside have been treated as less than human and it’s time that’s changed.

Tuesday the bill received a vote of 33 yeas and 0 nays. The Speaker of the House (Rep. Clay Schexnayder) and President of the Senate (Sen. Patrick Page Cortez) have both signed the bill. It will now be up to Governor John Bel Edwards to sign it into law.


Getting an expungement is no easy feat. It costs a lot of time and money. HB 707, sponsored by Rep. Royce Duplessis, would automate the expungement process for low-level records. Specifically, (1) arrests that did not lead to conviction, (2) misdemeanors, 5 years since the end of the sentence, (3) felonies eligible for “first offender pardon,” (4) non-violent felonies, 10 years since the end of the sentence. The bill was heard in the Senate Committee on Finance Tuesday.

The legislation would require the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information to identify all records with a court’s final determination of a charge for individuals who are eligible for an expungement. Starting August 1, 2024, the bureau would send these records to the Louisiana Supreme Court Case Management Information System. Rep. Duplessis proposed a budget of $3 million dollars for the first year and $7.7 million over the course of five years. Sen. Fesi gave an amendment stating that in the second year a fee would be applied to the individual seeking the expungement. Once they got a job, it would come out of their income taxes to help pay for the expungement. According to Duplessis, the bill would impact 2.5 million records. The amendments were adopted and the bill was moved favorably.

Continue reading It’s the Final Week of This Legislative Session!

Some Wins, Some Losses, We Keep Fighting

Only a week and some change left in this legislative session, read along to find out how things are panning out.

Legislative Updates

HB 1077: Non-Unanimous Jury Bill

Our public awareness campaign, pointing out the many flaws in this bill, has had an impact. A special shoutout is deserved for those incarcerated people who shared with us their views from the Inside, regarding their own fates and Jim Crow verdicts. The bill sponsor, Rep. Randall Gaines, sought to introduce amendments that would make the bill less damaging, and Rep. Royce Duplessis clearly articulated the problems with the parole process the District Attorneys have drafted for the legislature. Those amendments were voted down, and Rep. Gaines has not been able to find common ground with D.A.’s, who clearly hold a “veto power” within our legislative branch.

Today Rep. Gaines pulled HB 1077, killing the bill for this legislative session.

HB 517: Medical Advisory Committee

HB 517, by Rep. Larry Selders, was presented with no opposition in the Judiciary B Committee. The bill was reported favorably and will be voted on for final passage. HB 517 creates a Medical Advisory Committee within the DOC that will report quarterly to the Dept. of Health. Will Harrell, VOTE’s Policy Counsel, testified only to thank Rep. Selders and the DOC for working with VOTE on the bill. Harrell stated, “The version of the bill right now is scaled back significantly [from] when it was first filed, but we believe it’s still going to serve a great purpose [and] provide transparency to allow us to continue to work in collaboration with DOC to enhance medical services in our facilities.”

Continue reading Some Wins, Some Losses, We Keep Fighting