NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Governor John Bel Edwards is counting the successes and seeking improvement in Louisiana’s bipartisan criminal justice reform package.
The criminal justice reform package is a group of laws passed by the state legislature five years ago.
Governor Edwards announced today that since the laws were enacted, the state has saved more than $150 million, and 70% of that has been reinvested into community organizations.
“We were here today to talk specifically about re-entry work being done in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany Parishes with partners like Catholic Charities and United Way,” Edwards said.
Stephanie Mills, the program director for Cornerstone Builders, a partner of Catholic Charities, says they make sure those leaving prison are provided with support.
“That’s a huge piece of their success, and that’s what Catholic Charities is doing with the Cornerstone Builders’ re-entry program,” Mills said. “[It] is providing that support to them and that warm handoff to the services that are out there and available to them within the community.”
Among those who have benefited from these programs is a man named Walter, who had been incarcerated for more than 25 years.
“I was tired of going through the same thing,” Walter said. “I kept going in and out of jail, but now, since I had the opportunity, the whole scale of the game has changed. My whole perspective of life changed. I don’t want to do anything wrong because I love doing something good.”
Now, local and state leaders, as well as those previously incarcerated, hope to raise awareness about post-release assistance programs.
“I’m going to take it upon myself to try to put it out there for them, let them know there are people out there willing to help on all angles,” Walter said.
According to Edwards, recidivism is down by about 25% because of his criminal justice reform package. In 2016, there were 36,000 people in prison. Today, Edwards said, there are 26,000 people in prison, and two-thirds of that population is people who committed violent crimes.