Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation today to increase prosecutorial discretion, increase parole eligibility for non-violent, non-sex offense, non-habitual offenders and ensure the effective use of administrative sanctions to more quickly punish offenders who violate terms of their supervision. HB 512 by Representative Helena Moreno and House Bills 1026 and 1068 by Representative Joseph Lopinto are all part of the Governor's 2012 legislative package and are recommendations from the Louisiana Sentencing Commission.
HB 512 by Rep. Moreno ensures the effective use of administrative sanctions, which were enacted last year and enable probation and parole officers to quickly punish offenders under their supervision for violations of the conditions of their supervision. Specifically, this bill provides that the form used to record the offender's admission to the violation and the administrative sanction proceeding will be considered hearsay in any future proceeding. By allowing the offender to admit to the violation and consent to the imposed sanction, probation and parole officers are able to more quickly and efficiently administer sanctions without taking the offender back before the courts or Parole Board.
Governor Jindal said, "This bill is a continuation of our efforts to streamline the administration of the probation and parole system. Allowing officers to quickly punish offenders who both admit to a violation and consent to the punishment makes the system more efficient by reducing the burdens on our courts and Parole Board, while maintaining our commitment that offenders serve out the terms of their probation or parole."
HB 1026 by Rep. Lopinto allows second time non-violent, non-sex offense, non-habitual offenders who have proven to be model prisoners to become parole eligible after serving 33 percent, rather than 50 percent, of their sentences. This bill only gives the offender a hearing before the Parole Board, and does not guarantee they will be released from prison. In 2010, prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses made up over 45 percent of the state's prison population and in 2009 more than 70 percent of prison admissions were for drug or property crimes. Louisiana is unique in that it admits a larger proportion of drug and non-violent criminals to prison than the national average and the state sentences non-violent offenders to longer sentences than the rest of the country. These statistics are a clear indication that the state's prison system has a disproportionately high percentage of low-risk, non-violent, non-sex offense offenders taking up bed space and consuming resources that could be more effectively used to target high-risk criminals and fund other top priorities such as re-entry facilities and probation and parole supervision.
Governor Jindal said, "With the implementation of this law we will further our efforts to punish violent criminals, reform non-violent offenders and keep our communities safe and secure."
HB 1068 by Rep. Lopinto increases prosecutorial discretion so that district attorneys can tailor appropriate punishments as necessitated by the circumstances of the crime for non-violent, non-sex offense offenses. Currently, the criminal code contains many mandatory minimum sentences as well as mandatory minimum fines. These sentence and fines are necessary to ensure that justice is carried out and criminals are punished to the fullest extent of the law, but they sometimes restrict prosecutors' ability to properly decide how best to treat non-violent offenders.
Governor Jindal said, "This bill will allow district attorneys to enter into plea agreements with defendants and allow them to create individualized sentences, which will help to properly punish offenders and also increase the transparency in the plea-bargaining process. This is a common sense reform to ensure justice is served."