05/17 - Reforming Criminal Justice | Louisiana Public Square | LPB
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05/17 - Reforming Criminal Justice

Should alternatives to prison be used for criminals charged with non-violent offenses?

Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. Its incarceration rate is nearly double the rest of the country. And while Louisiana incarcerates violent offenders at a rate comparable to other southern states, nonviolent offenders are imprisoned at a much higher rate.

A package of bills being proposed this legislative session attacks the mass incarceration problem from a number of angles.

Should alternatives to prison be used for criminals charged with non-violent offenses? Should judges have more flexibility in sentencing? Should the state increase more opportunities for probation and parole? Should Louisiana pay sheriffs less for housing work release inmates? Louisiana Public Square looks for answers to these questions and more on “Reforming Criminal Justice” Wednesday, May 24 at 9 p.m. on LPB HD and in New Orleans on WLAE.

Our Panelists:


Justice Reinvestment Task Force Report

Louisiana Survey on Criminal Justice Reform

Smart on Crime Legislator Briefing Book

Louisiana needs to properly fund indigent/public defense. This would eliminate a significant amount of the problems with the criminal justice system, including mass incarceration.  Legislators need to step up - it is their responsibility to allocate funding. Courts need to hold legislators accountable, and the public needs to understand the importance of public defense and be willing to demand change from courts and legislators.

Posted by Lindsay  on  05/01  at  09:09 PM

What about recommendations from the pardon board that are sitting on the GoverGovernors desk to be signed?

Posted by Charles Haggard  on  05/24  at  09:41 PM

I served 20 years in La DOC from 1988-2008 And I am currently homeless do to my drug addiction I have recently accepted Christ as my savior while in treatment at CADA in March of this year 2017. It took a long time to adjust to society after getting released. I wasn’t on any parole program, although i did get a misdemeanor. I have been homeless off and on for four years. I have no funding except food stamps. But seek the help to get into housing or job/school to be able to retire one day, or to wok and put into social security because I have not put into it for over twenty years. I’m 49 today. I fear my health or age will not meet up with the living expenses i will need when I’m older…if I dont find a way to get the help and security soon. Id love to talk, its been a long journey.

Posted by Kenneth Wayne Dinkins Jr. #117302  on  05/24  at  09:51 PM

I watch your program “Louisiana Public Square” tonight, and in nearly answer and response, the approach to our problems with incarceration and reforms in our system “boiled down to” money, and cutting expenses. The law abiding citizens require our offenders to be “punished” for their crimes, and separated from the law abiding citizenry of the state. My father, (received his Master’s in Social Welfare from LSU)authored the first Alcohol and Drug abuse handbook, for LSP-Angola) where he was employed, as his and other state studies revealed that large majority of crimes (and the residivism rate)was contributed to the individual inmates being alcohol and drug impaired during the commission of their crimes. This should never be about saving money, but rehabbing abusers and addicts, but only after the have paid their debts to society. The money will always be insufficient, and the people of the state will not allow to be taxed for changes, but rather expect our government to be more prudent with our monies and the distribution of tax funded operations.

Posted by Nelson Robinson  on  05/24  at  09:55 PM

Great show - but a little two much agreement for my taste.

The District Attorneys keep saying that many of the non-violent criminals are really violent criminals with charges that have been plea bargained down. 

As the Task Force Reinvestment Committee did all year - show me the data.  If it is true that people charged with non-violent offenses are really violent offenders who had plea bargained down then that is the DAs fault.  If this is true I want to see the numbers.  And we have not seen it all year.  If we continue to use the student example - they sound like Freshman that have all kinds of opinions and nothing with which to back it up.
We may have made some strides, but Louisiana needs to go much further with Criminal Justice reforms.

Posted by Marianne Fisher-Giorlando  on  05/24  at  10:36 PM

My opinion for the first question, should we use alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders is, if we do that then business would get into trouble. Fraud, theft and the list goes on that would violate people which in turn would compound back to violence. To the next questions is if a person has been taught trouble and pain, that is how they will live their life. What I propose that would work is to go inside the prison systems and help them by teaching them how their own minds work, how to not believe every thought that comes into their mind. That they can live in the present moment and not in the past. We need to teach them how to live in the present moment. Byron Katie is a national teacher that helps prison inmates do better in life. Please research Byron Katie on youtube and try using her methods of teaching inmates and possibly providing community workshops that teach her methods to help people in the communities before they commit a crime. Do these community workshops for those who need support. Right now we don’t have community workshops. We could provide a variety of subjects for the community to get involved in to have the human connection and support that social media doesn’t provide. These workshops could teach people who don’t know how how to do well in life. How would we fund? We would try to get as many volunteers as possible in each community who are educated or know something about a variety of subjects. Just something to get the folks together and stop them from relying on alcohol and drugs by having a warm human connection with people in the communities instead of hashing out life by themselves isolated. This would be a start. It’s better than nothing. What we’ve done so far is not working and the problem is growing. I don’t know many of my neighbors. If we got together to have a community tea party to have tea if nothing else it would give us a chance to see and meet each other. I met more of my neighbors at the road when the road flooded and there’s no other way I would have met them. Communities need support from everyone to be able to meet with each other. Workshops would be great for that. The point would be to bring people together in communities so they can support each other and not be strangers to each other and thus prevent crime and time in prison.

Posted by Nancy  on  05/24  at  10:37 PM

When is Louisiana going to address the 10-2 verdict for convictions? That is the bigger issue!!

Posted by Charles Haggard  on  05/25  at  01:54 PM

I am a supporter of the Justice Reinvestment Package for reform in Louisiana. I’ve lived on both sides of the situation, both victim and offender. The main issue with the system is that nothing is equal, situations are not viewed individually but grouped into categories and sentences are handed down based on minimums. In addition, the notion of “who you know” always seem to prevail. My brother was shot in cold blood after an argument over a broken beer bottle, the killer charged with manslaughter served less than 10 years and is now home living life with his family. My husband on the other hand, shot back at someone who admittedly shot first, didn’t strike or injur the person at all, but was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a charge of attempted second degree murder. He has served 14 plus years and won’t be eligible for release until 2020. My uncle was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his wife, first degree murder was his charge. No one took into consideration the fact that he acted during a physical altercation, he suffered from post traumatic stress and literally snapped upon seeing his blood. He never intended to kill his wife, had never been arrested but is now in Angola for life. I firmly believe that sentences are driven by the current number of people in prison vs the number set to be released, with an overall objective of making money and having an unending free labor source no matter what the age, physical or mental condition may be. It’s a modernized slave trade funded by the blood, sweat and tears of the unfortunate both the incarcerated one and their families..

Posted by Melvilyn Hamilton  on  05/25  at  04:01 PM
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Current Topic

     08/18 - The Power of Reading

How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?
The ability to read sets the foundation of who we are and what we can be. Through reading we expand our world, learn new things and increase our base of knowledge. In fact, a parent’s reading level is the greatest factor in a child’s academic success. Children who can’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

In Louisiana, 20 percent of adults are illiterate – five points higher than the national rate. How is Louisiana combatting its illiteracy problem across generational lines? How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?

Louisiana Public Square: The Power of Reading looks for answers and explores the value of lifelong reading through the lens of the PBS series The Great American Read Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recorded Tuesday, August 14 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion at Baton Rouge Community College.)

Our panelists are:
- Linda-Marie Barrett, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
- Rebecca Hamilton, MLIS; Louisiana State Librarian
- Danny Heitman; Journalist and Louisiana author
- Miranda Restovic, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH).
- Gary Robertson; Adult Literacy Advocates

The program features interviews with John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books; Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Adult Literacy Advocates; representatives from the LEH PRIME TIME intergenerational reading program, and Superintendent John White with the Louisiana Department of Education.

LPB CEO Beth Courtney and Robyn Merrick, Southern University VP of External Affairs, host the show.

Louisiana Public Square can also be heard on public radio stations WRKF in Baton Rouge; Red River Radio in Shreveport and Monroe; and WWNO in New Orleans. Check their station websites for schedule.

This episode of Louisiana Public Square is underwritten by Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools Program, the Louisiana Forestry Association, LSU Press and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ Authors Round the South.

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