Louisiana Violent Crime Task Force releases draft report

Published 12:06 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

By Steve Wilson | The Center Square

The Louisiana Legislature’s Violent Crime Task Force released its draft report this week with its recommendations for lawmakers.

With three Louisiana’s largest cities — Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans — listed in the top 10 nationally of the most dangerous cities for violent crime, lawmakers created the task force in last year’s legislative session to try to craft some solutions. The draft report also points out New Orleans is one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world.

The 13-member group consisting of lawmakers, judiciary, the attorney general, district attorneys, law enforcement, public defenders, pardon and parole officials and other interest groups held four meetings, with the last coming Thursday.

One of those most startling data points came from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, which found the average length of time served by an inmate is actually less than 15% of their actual sentences. The agency also told the task force that only 5% of Louisiana’s prison population is serving 30-year sentences and the average sentence time for a violent offender is less than six years.

Also, criminal justice reforms designed to make it more difficult for officials to revoke probation or parole for violations of their supervised release have decreased the number sent back to prison by 50% between 2016 and 2020.

The agency also told the task force the recidivism rate for habitual offenders with at least three prior felony convictions is 55%.

Also startling was the increase of juvenile crime after the “Raise the Age” reforms of 2016 and 2017, which raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction so that 17-year-old offenders are no longer to be automatically treated as adults.

According to data provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice from fiscal years 2016 to 2023, the number of juveniles in Louisiana adjudicated of a violent offense increased from 1,408 to 2,199, an increase of 56%.

The task force recommended lawmakers find solutions to mounting problems with violent juvenile crime and a juvenile detention system bursting at the seams.

Members also recommended lawmakers increase penalties for violent felons in illegal possession of firearms and ensure these penalties are enforced.

The task force also implored the Legislature to conduct an analysis of the various rehabilitative programs for offenders and find out which giving taxpayers a good return on their investment by curbing recidivism.