Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law Thursday that will allow nonviolent drug offenders to gain early release from jail if they participate in rehabilitation programs. The sentencing reform legislation was part of the governor’s package of bills during this year’s session.
Under the new law, Louisianians convicted of felony drug possession or intent to distribute less than a certain amount of drugs will be eligible for release one year early if the court determines they suffer from addiction, would respond to rehab and are not a threat to the community. If at any time the court finds the offender stops meeting these requirements, or the district attorney disagrees, the offender would not be eligible.
In a news release Thursday, Jindal said he hoped the legislation would save taxpayer dollars currently paid to house inmates and would allow the justice system to focus on violent offenders.
“There are a number of low-risk, nonviolent drug offenders in our prisons who can still turn things around and become productive members of society instead of repeat offenders,” Jindal said. “This common sense piece of legislation will provide these offenders with the treatment they need to recover and safely re-enter our communities.”
The new law will also allow the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to enter into agreements with the Department of Health and Hospitals, training facilities and service providers to set up the programs.
House Bill 442, is the original legislation, sponsored by Metairie Republican Joe Lopinto. Louisiana has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, besting any other U.S. state as well as Iran and China.
About Martin E. Regan, Jr.
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