Rushed Bills from Louisiana’s Special Session Won’t Effectively Address Public Safety

Over the course of just nine days, the Louisiana Legislature passed 22 bills on to Governor Landry’s desk that will misspend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars while doing nothing to address the underlying causes of crime.


BATON ROUGE, LA (March 4, 2024) – While the stated purpose of the Louisiana Legislature’s recent special session on crime was to address public safety, legislators spent just nine days barely debating and passed 22 bills that ignored a wealth of research, data, and best practices related to crime prevention and successful reentry. The session also disregarded legislative due process; rules and time limits were suspended, and the public was denied the opportunity to speak in opposition to the proposed laws. The resulting legislation will do nothing to increase public safety or reduce crime—it will simply expand incarceration at great cost to the people of Louisiana.

The below organizations, including national and state advocacy organizations and criminal legal experts, worked with courageous members of the legislature to preserve and document the record for procedural and substantive challenges moving forward. The implementation of this legislation will be fraught with legal issues and human rights problems that we stand ready to correct. As these bills await the governor’s signature, we issue the following statements:

“Louisianans believe in redemption, and they want and deserve safe, thriving communities,” said Sarah Omojola, director of Vera Louisiana, a local initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice. “But the bills our lawmakers rushed through in this special session will do nothing to prevent crime, respond to crises, or stop violence. Instead, they will overfill our prisons and jails at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and an incalculable human toll, harming our communities for generations.”

“The ramifications of the special session will be felt by our communities, particularly our most vulnerable and marginalized, for decades. Blaming the wrong problems doesn’t get the right solutions, and our communities for years have made clear the solutions necessary to address the very real concerns and needs of all Louisianans. These misguided bills will balloon our already bloated legal system, jails and prison system, and further widen the inequities in justice, safety, and community well-being,” said Danny Engelberg, Chief Public Defender for New Orleans.

“Not a single bill passed this special session will increase violence prevention or offer support services to survivors and victims’ loved ones. Instead, the Legislature passed bills that will take money away from victims’ reparations while the Governor slashed funding to domestic violence shelters in his budget. The needs of survivors are not being taken seriously by this Legislature no matter how frequently they say these news laws are for victims,” said Katie Hunter-Lowrey, lead organizer for Louisiana Survivors for Reform.

“Everyone wants to end crime, but the idea that Louisiana can crush our own people into compliance is a strategy that only furthers the cycles of poverty and trauma that give rise to crime in the first place,” said Bruce Reilly, Deputy Director of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE)

“As faith leaders, we reject the fear-based narrative that more incarceration will keep our communities safe. We want forms of justice that bring healing, support our communities’ needs, address root causes, and shift cycles of harm. More than 1000 religious leaders and Louisianans signed letters and 100 of us stood on the capitol steps in prayer as a moral voice for dignity and life.” said Alison McCrary, director of Louisiana InterFaith against Executions (L.I.F.E.).

“The Governor has shown us that he values expediency over fairness, justice, and innocence,” said Jee Park, executive director of Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO). “By abolishing parole, gutting the good time system in sentencing, and increasing sentences for certain crimes while drastically limiting access to courts in postconviction, the Governor has taken away hope and is sowing despair. This is truly a sad day for all Louisianans who care for justice.”

“In a state where death penalty cases are reversed at a rate of more than 80% because of a horrifying pattern of wrongful convictions, Louisiana has entered into a new era of the death penalty,” said Samantha Kennedy, Executive Director of the Promise of Justice Initiative. “Governor Landry and Lawmakers have passed laws that will bring in the extreme brutality of gassing and electrocuting people to death and a policy of governmental secrecy around the killing of its citizens.”

“Louisiana's crime policies should be informed by data and empirical evidence,” said Alanah Odoms, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director. “By passing this harmful slate of bills, the legislature has not only disregarded the wishes of their constituents, but also years of data analysis that indicates Louisiana's crime is on a downward trend.”

“I am so disappointed in many of the bills that passed out of the special crime session,” said Curtis Williams Alexander, a member of Step Up for Action from Slidell. “We do not need more punishment or more incarceration. We need better-paying jobs, better schools for our kids, and equal access to housing for everyone. That is what will reduce crime.”

“Governor Landry’s 2024 budget calls for spending cuts to public services that help people thrive and improve public safety on the front end, while the bills passed during this crime special session are certain to substantially increase spending on reactionary punishment policies,” said Peter Robins-Brown, executive director of Louisiana Progress. “That is not an effective way to solve the crime problem and make Louisiana a better, safer place to live.”

“These bills are going to have major implications on reentry. Disincentivizing rehabilitation will only lead to a significant increase in Louisiana’s prison population, further endanger those in prison, and cost us millions,” said Troy Glover, executive director of the First 72+. As the data shows, lengthier sentences don’t reduce crime - they only increase recidivism.”

“Lawmakers must commit to mitigating the root causes of crime. Instead of continuing the cycle of harm, we must invest in the solutions we know work – prevention, supports, and rehabilitation,” said Gina Womack, co-founder and executive director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. Until we decide to take a different approach and embark upon a complete transformation of the system, we will not achieve real safety for youth, families, and communities.”

“During this special session we repeatedly raised our concerns that evidence shows these proposals will do nothing to deter crime and will only undo the progress Louisiana has made in the last 5 years to reduce incarceration and improve recidivism and reentry outcomes for individuals,” said Sarah Whittington, Advocacy Director, Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana. “We believe that budgets are moral documents, and Governor Landry and the Louisiana Legislature showed that they will not prioritize our children, our families, or our communities to improve public safety and choose instead to invest in prisons and jails which do not make us safer.”

“The bills rushed through the special legislative session by Governor Landry and Louisiana lawmakers do nothing to decrease crime or violence and instead seek to remove rehabilitative efforts that will surely lead to massive overfilling of our prisons and jails, costing Louisianians hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Ashley Crawford, policy and legal associate with Operation Restoration. “These bills have dismantled our sense of humanity and morality and will have lasting effects on our community for decades to come.”

“Although the special session on crime and public safety is over, the ramifications of these “tough-on-crime” bills will have disastrous effects that will reverberate through our communities and state for years to come. Creating a safer Louisiana can never be achieved through legislation that dehumanizes children, eliminates hope, and supports state-sanctioned violence and torture. This session reminds us that our future depends on us. We won’t bow,” said Kristen Rome, Executive Director, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.

“Landry's special session on crime is incredibly harmful and disproportionately impacts people of color. The governor and his administration are exploiting people's fears of crime and weaponizing rhetoric around ‘safety’ in order to push forward a sweeping agenda of punitive social control, aimed at expanding the carceral state in the nation's mass incarceration capital. It does nothing to address the root causes of crime, notably poverty, housing insecurity, and racial oppression,” said Devorah Levy-Pearlman of New Orleans Voices for Accountability and Safety (NOVAS).


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