A Louisiana sheriff lashed out at the state’s new criminal justice reforms that will allow prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes to be released early.
Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator held a press conference this week to complain that keeping “good” prisoners locked up helped the jails because they perform essential jobs that more dangerous prisoners cannot.
“The [prisoners] that you can work, the ones that can pick up trash, the work release programs — but guess what? Those are the ones that they’re releasing!” Prattor complained. “In addition to the bad ones… they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen… well, they’re going to let them out!”
In 38 seconds Steve Prattor, Sheriff of Caddo Parish in Louisiana, tells you why he REALLY likes keeping "good" Black men in jail. pic.twitter.com/7YtxixE1rU
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 12, 2017
The state passed a series of criminal justice reform bills earlier this year that will reduce the prison population by 10 percent in order to save Louisiana taxpayers around $265 million over the next decade, according to The Advocate.
The bill was passed with bipartisan support and backing from many businesses and religious groups before it was signed by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.
The act allows nonviolent offenders who have served 35 percent of their sentence to be eligible for parole. The threshold had previously been 40 percent of their sentence.
Inmates will begin to be released early on November 1, when the state will release about 1,400 prisoners.
“When you say 1,400 everybody thinks ‘Wow’,” James LeBlanc, the secretary for the Department of Corrections, told The Advocate. “It’s not as alarming as people might think. We have this under control.”
LeBlanc explained that the state already releases about the same number each month and since they will be sent back to the parish where they were convicted even large cities should only see around 30 to 40 addition parolees.
Around 16,000 inmates, which is around 40 percent of the state’s prison population, will soon be qualified for early release.
“We feel comfortable that we’re doing the right thing here,” LeBlanc said. “It’s the start of a new process for the criminal justice system. It may be a little painful. It’s not going to be perfect. But in the big picture is this is huge step in the right direction.”
Sheriff Prator disagrees.
“There’s ways and things that need to be reformed on the criminal-justice system, but certainly we don’t need to do what we’re about to do,” Prator said at a press conference. “Simply put, the state of Louisiana is risking our safety for bragging rights and to save money.”
Speaking with KSLA, LeBlanc pushed back on Prator’s concerns.
“It’s not like it’s some opening of the gates and everybody’s releasing here,” Le Blanc said. “This is 1,400 inmates that are going to 21 different districts.”
“I have all the respect in the world for Sheriff Prator. I just don’t know if he really knows what the numbers look like.”
“We can put people that need to be in these beds in. More violent offenders and sex offenders and people that we need to be dealing with and providing the adequate resources and programs to while they’re in prison,” Le Blanc added.