Recent Changes to Louisiana Sentencing and Parole Laws
The 2012 Louisiana Legislature adopted, and Governor Bobby Jindal signed, several measures that modify the state’s sentencing and parole laws. The changes primarily affect nonviolent offenders whose crimes involved drugs or property. Most of the changes had been recommended by The Louisiana Sentencing Commission. These modifications include:
- House Bill 515: Merges separate pardon and parole boards. Two members will be added to the five-member pardon board, and the seven-person panel, sitting as a “parole committee,” will decide whether to release eligible prisoners on parole. The existing parole board will cease to exist.
- House Bill 1068: Discretion on mandatory minimums. Prosecutors, defendants and judges are given authority to make pre-trial plea agreements or post-trial sentencing agreements that call for lesser punishment than the minimum required in existing criminal statutes.
- House Bill 1026: Parole for nonviolent, second-time offenders. Certain second-time offenders, excluding those whose crimes were sexual in nature, could be eligible for a parole hearing after serving one-third of their sentences, rather than the current requirement of one-half.
- House Bill 543: Parole for nonviolent offenders sentenced to life. Certain nonviolent, good-behavior, low-risk lifers will be eligible for release earlier, including for the first time those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The change excludes anyone whose crimes were sexual in nature. Inmates who were sentenced between the ages of 18 and 24 must serve at least 25 years to be eligible. Those sentenced between ages 25 and 34 must serve at least 20 years. Those sentenced between ages 35 and 49 must serve at least 15 years. Those sentenced at age 50 or older must serve at least 10 years.
- House Bill 541: Expanded re-entry courts. A pilot court program that assists released nonviolent offenders with job training and other re-entry issues will be expanded into two new judicial districts.
- House Bill 512: Streamlined discipline for offenders on probation. In certain instances, officers will be able to use administrative sanctions to discipline offenders without taking them back to court.