House committee approves bill to limit state sentencing law for repeat offenders

Rep. Randal Gaines spoke on the Capitol steps Monday at a rally for his bill to limit the state’s repeat-offender sentencing law to violent crimes. (Photo credit: Christopher Drew, LSU Manship School News Service)

By: James A. Smith & Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service

Published: May 7, 2019

BATON ROUGE–A House committee approved a bill on Tuesday that would limit Louisiana’s sentencing law for repeat offenders only to violent crimes.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace, is part of an effort to expand the overhaul of Louisiana’s criminal justice system that began in 2017. It also would sharply reduce the number of people serving lengthy incarcerations.

The bill passed without objection in the House Committee of Administration of Criminal Justice.

Louisiana still has one of the world’s highest incarceration rates even though Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican lawmakers agreed on a package of criminal justice reforms two years ago.

In June 2018, the state’s prison ratio was 712 per 100,000 residents, which was significantly higher than the national average of 415 per 100,000 residents in state and federal prisons, according to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts and U.S. Census Bureau.

Last November, voters eliminated Louisiana’s Jim Crow-era law that allowed people to be convicted of felonies even if only 10 of the 12 jurors voted to convict them.

“Longer sentences are not a factor in deterring crime,” said Rep. Gaines. “Longer sentences overburden our prisons and budgets.”

Read more in KALB.

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