[UPDATE: The state Senate, a day after it rejected a measure to increase parole options for some prison lifers, about-faced Tuesday and approved House Bill 543 with a 23-12 vote. According to The Advocate, Democratic state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas is among the four lawmakers who changed their votes.]
Louisiana will continue to hold the title of the “world’s prison capital” following a state Senate vote Monday that killed the chance for nonviolent felons serving life sentences under the state’s habitual offender law to be granted freedom.
The Senate voted 19-18 against House Bill 543, according to The Advocate, with two of the nay votes coming from the Acadiana delegation. State sens. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, voted against the prisoner reform bill:
The state Senate was the last stop in the legislative process for the proposal, which breezed through the House and a Senate committee. A favorable vote would have sent the bill to the governor’s desk.
The Legislature passed a law in 1996 allowing offenders convicted of three felonies to receive life sentences. He said legislators later changed the law to ensure it only applies to violent crimes. Left in prison ... are those sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent felonies before the law changed.
State law prohibits inmates serving life in prison from being eligible for parole, unless their sentences are commuted to a fixed number of years.
HB543 would lift the prohibition on parole eligibility for offenders not convicted of violent or sex-related crimes. The offenders still would have to go before the Parole Board for a decision on their release applications.
Under the bill, inmates would have to behave behind bars, complete any necessary substance abuse treatment and obtain the equivalency of a high school diploma or other educational offerings. The legislation would only make them eligible for parole.
The legislation would exclude sex offenders and those convicted of violent crimes.
The move comes only a week after The Times-Picayune unveiled “Louisiana Incarcerated,” an eight-part investigative series on the state of Louisiana’s prisons that explains in detail the profit-driven business of Louisiana’s prisons and the laws on the books that contribute to the state’s obscene incarceration rate.
As noted by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, the bill was a “reasonable” attempt to curb the state’s status as the “incarceration capital of the universe.”
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NOV 21 Bobby Jindal is headed to Iowa again, the Des Moines Register reports here. The paper outlines what's going on with Bobby's non-campaign for president, and there's a lot of stuff here -- too bad none of it sounds like somebody running Louisiana. Hey, wasn't that the job he wanted?
NOV 21 The end of the term has come for the grand jury investigating a lucrative Medicaid contract and a former state health official's ties to the company that won it, the Advocate reports here, but that doesn't mean the investigation into this stinkiness is over. There are still some things to look into, the lead prosecutor says.
NOV 21 With the passage of two amendments to Louisiana's much-amended constitution (it has been amended almost 200 times now) higher education has an even bigger target on its collective back, columnist Jim Beam opines in this post. Higher ed used to share the spotlight with health care, but that has changed, he says.
NOV 21 Here's a weird one: The Louisiana Cannabis Industry Association has endorsed Bill Cassidy for the U.S. Senate. Apparently, Mary Landrieu said she wouldn't consider support of medical marijuana but Cassidy said he would, WWL reports here.
NOV 21 Solange Knowles, possibly best-known for assaulting her brother-in-law in an elevator while wearing an ugly dress after the Met Ball, got married in the Marigny Opera House this past weekend, the New York Times reports here. Knowles, who has a house in the Faubourg Marigny district and owns a boutique in the Quarter, married Alan Ferguson.
NOV 21 This post on the Fuel Fix blog outlines a $1.4 billion move announced this week by the Apache Corp. that includes the sale of assets in south Louisiana. The company's interests in more than 90,000 acres in south Louisiana are some of the assets being sold, the post reports.
NOV 21 One (possible) positive from Hurricane Katrina is a comprehensive zoning ordinance for New Orleans. Nine years later, we're getting closer to that being finalized, but the current version has some problems. Here's the latest in a series of posts on The Lens in which residents give their views of the draft; this one is more amusing than most.
NOV 21 The new NOLA smoking ordinance is going to harsh your (nicotine) buzz, man. This post on Gambit outlines the high (or low, as the case may be) points: it includes electronic cigarettes and hookahs in its bans; eliminates smoking within 25 feet of any building's public entrance and in any public space - or near any public space - operated by the city.
NOV 20 Politico reports here that Bobby Jindal won't be kept out of the presidential race by anyone else's candidacy. (If he's running, which he's not, 'cause he's not done prayin' on it) So he's not interested in who is running, or what the polls say, or how much money he's got? K.
NOV 20 NOLA Defender's Tiny Daiquiri has a little fun with Bobby Jindal's Meet the Press appearance in this post. Bobby is still prayin' on whether or not he'll run for the job he's been running for over the past three years, Tiny says.
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