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Long awaited sentencing changes for felonies could happen

Louisiana's current sentencing laws vary widely. With 618 possible felonies, the sentencing options can get confusing. This makes it a challenge to determine what the outcome of a particular case might be for any given individual, which means that two people convicted of the same crime could face disparate sentences. In addition, Louisiana has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.

In response to this, Gov. Edwards put together a task force to make recommendations for changes that could make sentencing fairer, ease overcrowding and lessen incarceration rates. Certain felonies would be grouped together and given a standard set of sentencing and parole options. Non-violent offenders could be eligible for parole after serving 25 percent of a sentence or release for "good time" after serving 35 percent of a sentence for the least serious class.

For more violent offenses, parole eligibility could occur after serving 55 percent of a sentence and allow a "good time" release after serving 65 percent. Eligibility for parole for those serving time for sex offenses would happen after serving 75 percent of a sentence. In addition, probation would be made an option for more individuals in lieu of incarceration. Recommendations are also anticipated regarding streamlining the parole process and reducing the amount of time individuals spend on parole or probation. The treatment of seriously ill inmates could also change, along with juvenile lifers.

Additional changes to other classes of felonies are also being considered. Louisiana's judges, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys will undoubtedly be following the progression of the task force's recommendations. If these changes occur, it would more than likely affect the way criminal defense attorneys look at their clients' cases.

Source: nola.com, "Here's how Louisiana's prison and sentencing laws might change", Julia O'Donoghue, March 10, 2017

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