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May 16, 2012

Continued great reporting on the toughest state in incarceration nation

As noted in this post from this past weekend, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is published a huge eight-part series on the severity of punishment and prison overcrowding in the Bayou state. This series is titled "Louisiana Incarceration: How We Built the World's Prison Capital," and every piece in the series merits a full read. Today's installment is headlined "Prison sentence reform efforts face tough opposition in the Legislature," and here are a few excerpts from the outset:

Even as prison populations have strained the state budget and prompted fiscal conservatives to join liberals in calling for changes, the political calculus in Louisiana has evolved slowly since a series of tough sentencing laws in the 1970s, '80s and '90s bloated the state's inmate counts.

If anything, the balance has remained tilted toward law enforcement. After a prison-building boom in the 1990s, Louisiana sheriffs now house more than half of inmates serving state time -- by far the nation's highest percentage in local prisons. Their financial stake in the prison system means they will lose money if sentences are shortened. They typically house the same drug pushers, burglars and other nonviolent offenders who will be the likely targets of any serious efforts to change the system.

"The three easiest votes for a legislator are against taxes, against gambling and to put someone in jail for the rest of their lives," said state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, a veteran policymaker who has led the judiciary committees in both the House and Senate.

This lengthy piece goes on to detail how challenging it can be to forge a needed political consensus for any ameliorative sentencing reforms.

May 16, 2012 at 09:00 AM | Permalink


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I work as a note-taker at a New Mexico community college.

Wait for Louisiana to have another Attica or Lucasville if the state does not start to reduce its prison population! Even a state with severe penal regimes is not immune to hostage-taking or guard-killing situations by disgruntled inmates who feel they have nothing to lose anymore. Forty years ago, two white guards at Angola Prison lost their lives during a radical uprising led by the Panther and other movements. Although evidence now points to a black inmate trusty who, in exchange for helping the prosecution by giving false testimony against radical inmates, actually may have been the killer of the two white guards, the authorities were more interesting in railroading radical inmates than they were in punishing the inmate who may have actually killed the guards, even though the prosecutors may have KNOWN from the start that the inmate testifying for the prosecutition was the actual killer. If inmates could kill their keepers then at Angola and elsewhere in Louisiana, there is no reason to believe it could not happen again with the continuing rise in that state s prison population.

Posted by: william r. delzell | May 16, 2012 9:51:20 AM

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