Thursday, July 25, 2024

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry calls for special session, focused on tough-on-crime policies

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry on Thursday officially called for a highly anticipated crime-focused special legislative session that could overhaul the state’s current criminal justice system, reversing hard-fought and historic reforms that happened under Landry’s Democratic predecessor.

Among the two dozen tough-on-crime-related items on Landry’s broad agenda are expanding methods to carry out death row executions, restricting parole eligibility, harsher penalties for carjackings, “immunity from liability” for law enforcement based upon a certain criteria and publicizing some juvenile court records.

“We will defend and uplift our law enforcement officials and deliver true justice to crime victims who have been overlooked for far too long. I am eager to enact real change that makes Louisiana a safer state for all,” Landry said in a statement.

The special session is scheduled to begin Feb. 19 and must conclude by the evening of March 6.

The Republican Landry has long vowed to crack down on crime in Louisiana — a state that in recent years has had one of the highest homicide rates in the country. The issue became a pivotal part of his gubernatorial platform, with him often pointing at New Orleans, which has been in the national spotlight for violent crime and will be the site of the 2025 Super Bowl.

However, up until this point, Landry had evaded discussing specifics about crime-related policies — multiple times equating it to a “battle plan” that he wanted to withhold from criminals. The release of the special session call, which was published on the Louisiana House of Representatives’ website Thursday afternoon, is the first and most detailed look at Landry’s plan of action to tackle crime in the state.

Some of the items on Landry’s proposed agenda could reverse a package of criminal justice reform bills passed in 2017 — which expanded probation and parole opportunities and reduced sentences, mainly for nonviolent offenders. In addition, most of the savings from the prison population reduction instead paid for programs aimed at keeping exiting inmates from returning to crime. Since the changes were enacted, Louisiana relinquished its title as the nation’s tops jailer, dropping to the state with the second-highest incarceration rate per capita.

The criminal justice redesign was a bipartisan effort modeled after similar work in other Southern states, with support across a wide ideological spectrum, from Christian conservatives, business leaders and liberal organizations. Landry, who served as the state’s attorney general for eight years until he became governor, has repeatedly slammed Louisiana’s 2017 criminal justice overhaul.

This past election season, violent crime became a top concern among voters.

As in numerous other parts of the country, violence surged in Louisiana following the onset of COVID-19. And while data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that crime has steadily decreased in Louisiana over the past decade, New Orleans has continued to struggle with a surge of killings.

This will be Louisiana’s second special session since Landry took office last month. During the first legislative gathering, under the direction of Landry, the GOP-dominated Legislature approved a congressional map with a second majority-Black district and passed a bill that reshapes the primary system for congressional elections.

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