Monday, April 15, 2024

Landry signs bills that expand death row execution methods and concealed carry

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry approved 11 bills Tuesday, including expanding death row execution methods, concealed carry of a gun without a permit and legislation that effectively eliminates parole for most jailed in the future.

The governor’s ceremony of signing bills into law follows a short crime-focused special session where the GOP-dominated Legislature passed a slew of policies, which will overhaul elements of the criminal justice system in a state grappling with one of the highest rates of incarceration and violent crime in the country.

“Today we sign these bills to start to make Louisiana safe,” Landry said Tuesday.

Among the bills signed by Landry is legislation that adds the use of nitrogen gas and electrocution as methods to carry out the death penalty.

Despite 58 people currently sitting on Louisiana’s death row, an execution has not been held since 2010. Like most states that have capital punishment, Louisiana has relied on lethal injection. But amid legal battles and challenges over the drugs involved, some states have explored other methods.

Proponents of expanding the allowed execution methods say it’s past time for the state to uphold “contractual obligations” between victims’ families and the state. Opponents question the legality of the proposed methods, saying they could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

During Louisiana’s two-week-long special session, lawmakers spent a portion of that time debating sweeping changes that could determine how long certain incarcerated people remain in prison and when, or if, they would be allowed a second chance at freedom.

One bill, signed by Landry Tuesday, effectively eliminates parole for anyone convicted after Aug. 1, with few exceptions — including groups for whom it is constitutionally required, such as those who were sentenced to life terms as juveniles. The governor also approved a measure that reduces the amount of “good time credit” that prisoners can accumulate to shave time off their sentence.

Supporters say the new laws will reduce instances of inmates only serving a “fraction of their sentence” and, hopefully, decrease recidivism. Critics say the legislation won’t deter crime, will cost the state millions as it continues to house inmates who could be paroled, and could create less incentive for good behavior and involvement in programs designed to help former inmates succeed in the outside world.

Landry also signed a bill allowing residents 18 and older to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. The law will go into effect July 4.

Among legislation awaiting Landry’s approval are proposals to increase the penalty for carjackings, treating 17-year-olds who commit a crime as adults and publishing court minutes for youth accused of violent crimes. A second signing ceremony is scheduled to occur Wednesday afternoon.

Spurred by violent crime plaguing urban areas in the state, Louisiana’s debates during the special session echo conversations happening in statehouses across the country — including over how long someone should go to prison, how to handle juvenile offenders and if and when those incarcerated deserve a second chance.

Republicans say Louisiana’s Legislature-approved bills prioritize victims and will keep criminals behind bars and off Louisiana streets. Democrats say most of the measures won’t address crime and that lawmakers needs to take a holistic approach, including additional funding and programs to address drug addiction, improving outcomes for prisoners who re-enter society, and allocating more money for mental health and education.

Landry says there is still much work to be done to better Louisiana, including improving education, the economy and additional measures to tamp down violent crime.

“This package of bills is just the beginning,” Landry said. “I want to make sure that everyone understands… this is not just a one and done.”

Lawmakers won’t have to wait long for another chance to address issues effecting the state — with the Legislature scheduled to convene next week for Louisiana’s three-month-long regular session.

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