John Bel Edwards reduces 22 prisoners’ terms and gets Angola inmates’ attention

 angola

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Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to make his big push to change criminal sentencing laws and reduce Louisiana’s highest-in-the-world incarceration rate during the Legislature‘s regular session starting April 10. But quietly, Edwards has already been putting some of what he says he wants to do into practice on a small scale, as he considers commuting prison terms for inmates already serving time (NOLA.com).

 

In 2016, his first year in office, Edwards shortened terms for 22 prisoners — far more than the first-year totals of predecessors Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal. Jindal commuted a single sentence in his first year, Blanco and Foster none (NOLA.com).

 

Edwards’ actions have raised the spirits of lifers at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where long-time inmates say his early decisions on clemency indicate a commitment to changing the way Louisiana treats prisoners. “Everybody now is looking at the governor. Everybody now believes,” Leon Brent, a 77-year-old inmate who has been at Angola for more than 50 years, said in a recent interview (NOLA.com).

 

Later in their terms as governor, Foster and Blanco were much freer in granting commutations, shortening prison time for dozens of inmates during each of their last years in office. Jindal was not; he reduced just three prison terms in eight years as governor (NOLA.com).

 

Jindal didn’t necessarily turn down offenders’ requests for clemency; he often didn’t act at all, letting about 700 recommendations from the Pardons and Parole Board for commutations, pardons and other forms of relief go without any action, according to the board (NOLA.com).

 

That’s one reason that Edwards has been approving more requests. Some of these inmates had been waiting on Jindal for years for a decision, either a grant of their request or rejection, said Matthew Block, Edwards’ executive counsel (NOLA.com).

 

“There was a significant backlog of individuals [who] were put on the governor’s desk,” said Block, who works on commutation recommendations with the governor. “There were a lot of people who had very favorable recommendations that there had been no action on (NOLA.com).

 

When a governor doesn’t act on a commutation or pardon request, it’s as if the request was denied; the person asking for help must start the process again by applying to the Pardons and Parole Board, which is appointed by the governor.  If the board endorses the request, it goes to the governor’s desk (NOLA.com).

 

Previously, an inmate had to wait two to five years to restart the process if a governor didn’t act on his or her request for commutation. But Edwards’ Pardons and Parole Board implemented a new rule at the beginning of 2016: If Jindal’s board had recommended clemency and Jindal did not act on the case, the inmate could reapply over the next year to Edwards’ board and be considered quickly.

 

See the full article here.

 

If you or a family member are facing legal difficulties, please call us at 504-522-7260. We offer free initial consultations with our clients in mind.