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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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Louisiana Corrections officials report $17.8 million in savings from prison reform

Louisiana Corrections officials report $17.8 million in savings from prison reform

Reducing the state’s prison population produced about $17.8 million in savings over the most recent fiscal year, a Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections official said Friday.

This past fiscal year, which ended June 30, was the first full fiscal year following the package of criminal justice changes lawmakers enacted in 2017. The legislation spells out how the money will be spent.

Thirty percent of the total goes back to the state’s general fund, while 20 percent goes to the Office of Juvenile Justice. The rest goes to grants to community partners, services for crime victims, and the Department of Corrections budget.

Thomas Bickham, undersecretary with the department, says the savings are to be divided up as follows:

- $5.34 million to the state’s general fund

- $4.45 million to the Department of Corrections

- $3.56 million to the Office of Juvenile Justice

- $2.67 million for community grants

- $1.78 million to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement’s Crime Victims Reparations program

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget will consider the spending plan at its meeting next month, Bickham said.

The state’s prison population peaked at 40,480 in 2012, Corrections Secretary Jimmy Leblanc said. As of Oct. 31, 2017, it was 36,541, Bickham said.

At the end of June, the prison population was 31,756, Leblanc said. The number of people on parole and probation was 60,509, he said.

Several privately run parish prisons around the state are using those empty beds to house federal prisoners, including those held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There are currently 5,030 ICE and other federal prisoners in Louisiana facilities, Leblanc said, of which 4,318 were from ICE. He said another 1,600 ICE prisoners are being added at Catahoula Correctional Center, run by LaSalle Corrections.

The federal government pays about $62 per prisoner per day, compared to just over $24 by the state, Leblanc said.