Special Session on Crime & Public Safety Solidifies Louisiana’s Status as an Incarceration Capital

In February, the state legislature gathered for a mere ten day special session to create new laws aimed at decreasing “surging” crime in Louisiana—despite both violent and property crime having already dropped significantly in 2023. The session resulted in over a dozen bills being sent to the Governor’s desk for signature, including the elimination of parole and good time credits for incarcerated people, increased challenges for people who wish to contest wrongful convictions, and the establishment of new methods for execution. Much of the session was spent undoing the criminal justice reforms passed in 2017, despite those reforms having saved $153M in taxpayer dollars while reducing recidivism rates.

Children were a specific target of this session, which saw a repeal of the landmark Raise the Age law. Louisiana is now the first state in the nation to roll back this reform and return to the practice of prosecuting all 17-year-old children as adults, no matter how minor their offense. Legislators claimed they were providing relief to sheriffs experiencing overpopulation issues (false) while decreasing the perceived risk of “bigger” and “stronger” 17-year-olds influencing younger children to “make more adult decisions” (also false).

In truth, right from the start this session harks back to the superpredator myth about kids and crime, with Gov. Landry lashing out that: “These juveniles are not innocent children any longer; they are hardened criminals. They violently attack our citizens, our law enforcement, and even our juvenile correction officers without hesitation.” This inflammatory argument is grounded in anecdotal evidence versus objective crime trend data. It’s also a reflection of how our state’s majority white leadership views Black youth in the legal system, even if they don’t explicitly say “Black youth.”

Despite the legislature’s stated objective of making Louisiana safer—and the fact that crime continues to decrease both in Louisiana and nationwide—the only results these “tough-on-crime policies” will yield are higher incarceration rates, higher costs, and reduced public safety. After all, if incarceration truly worked, Louisiana—already having one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world—would be one of the safest states in the country. It isn’t. Not by a long shot.

In the wake of this special session, LCCR’s attorneys and social workers continue to fight for the rights of system-involved youth on an individual case level, while our policy advocates will work to mitigate the harms being unleashed by these new punitive policies. We have a long road ahead. But it’s the solidarity and support of people like you that makes this hard work possible.

Posted by Ryan Hillon April 22, 2024and categorized as Awards, Client Story, Events, Featured, News, Reports, Uncategorized