Thursday, February 2, 2012

The State of Sentencing 2011: Developments in Policy and Practice

The Sentencing Project, which is a Washington DC based, national advocacy organization on reducing unequal incarceration and criminal justice practices just released The State of Sentencing 2011: Developments in Policy and Practice.  This report highlights some of the policy changes different states have implemented in 2011 that help either reduce their reliance on incarceration and/or address the racism that is institutionalized within the system.  Some highlights for Louisiana include the following (below the break):

Louisiana - Authorized Sentencing Reductions
HB 305 authorizes a reduction in sentences for defendants who provide “substantial
assistance” to authorities. This policy authorizes the sentencing court to reduce the
sentence to a time period which is less than the minimum sentence provided by law
with the consent of the district attorney.

Louisiana – Expanded Parole Eligibility for Certain Prisoners and Adopted
Alternative Sanctions for Technical Parole Violators: 

HB 138 authorizes early release for elderly prisoners aged 60 or older who have
served a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment and are deemed low risk if specified
conditions are met including no disciplinary actions for 12 months prior to parole
eligibility. The average cost of housing elderly prisoners is between two and three
times that of younger prisoners. At the same time, aging is correlated with a
diminishing risk of recidivism. According to the Department of Corrections, as of
June 2011, 15 prisoners had a low-risk designation, a GED, and had not committed a
violent crime, and were eligible under the policy.

State policymakers authorized alternative sanctions for persons with nonviolent
offenses who commit “technical” parole violations through enacting HB 415. Prior
to reform, an individual whose parole or probation was revoked for a first technical
violation was required to serve up to 90 days in custody or a maximum sentence of
six months in a drug diversion program. HB 415 authorizes a parole or probation
officer to impose administrative sanctions for a technical violation of parole or
probation conditions, if the Board of Parole or court determines that the offender is
eligible and when certain requirements are met including the offender waiving the
right to a violation hearing. According to the Department of Corrections, in 2010
there were 4,258 individuals who violated the conditions of their probation or parole.
The new measure is expected to save the state more than $3.9 million by reducing
the length of confinement for certain prisoners.

HB 416 authorizes parole after 25% of time served for prisoners sentenced to firsttime,
non-violent offenses. Prior to reform, such prisoners were eligible for parole
after serving 33% of their sentence. The measure also requires the Department of
Corrections to measure and document cost savings from implementation of the law
and requires the Legislature to appropriate the savings to local corrections programs
that reduce recidivism, expand treatment programs, and for probation and parole

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