On Wednesday, the Louisiana legislature will vote on seven different criminal justice reform bills. We have a rundown of what each one does.
HB37: Extends parole eligibility for some currently incarcerated mentors
This bill ensures parole eligibility for those inmates who have served as mentors in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ inmate rehabilitation and workforce development program. In order to qualify, the person must:
- Be serving a term without parole eligibility
- Complete programming deemed appropriate for the person by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections
- Not have any major disciplinary offenses in the previous 12 months
- Have completed a minimum of 100 hours of prerelease programming
- Have a low-risk level designation as determined by a validated risk assessment
- Be at least 40 years of age and have served at least 20 years of their sentence
- Have served as a mentor for a minimum of five years
HB46: Ends prison-based gerrymandering
Rather than counting each prisoner as a resident in the area of the state where the prison is located, they instead will be added to the population for the census block that corresponds to their previous residential address.
HB65: Allows people with felony convictions to serve on a jury
This bill amends the general qualifications for jurors to allow those who have had a felony conviction, as long as:
- They are a citizen of the United States and reside in the parish where they have been selected to serve as a juror for at least a year
- Are at least 18
- Can read, write, and speak English
- Have not been incarcerated for at least five years prior to their selection as a juror
HB251: Automates voter registration through driver’s license facilities
This will change the current processes so that any application for a driver’s license issued by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections made by someone who is at least 16 years old will also serve as an application for voter registration unless the person specifically requests that it doesn’t.
HB351: Ensures people are advised of all collateral punishments before pleading guilty to a crime
This ensures that the court will not accept a guilty plea from a defendant without first informing them of:
- Their potential for deportation (if they are not a U.S. citizen)
- Changes in their voting rights
- Changes in their right to possess a firearm
- Changes in their access to subsidized housing
- What licenses they may no longer be able to receive
- Changes in their eligibility to attend certain colleges or receive federal financial aid
- Whether they may be sentenced as a habitual offender
- What their standard of proof will be for parole or probation revocation
HB402: Simplifies the voter registration process for people with felony records
Last year, Lousiana voters decided that those who have had a felony conviction should be allowed to vote, as long as they had served their term and had not been incarcerated within the last five years. This change simplifies the voter registration process for those wishing to reinstate their voter registration.
HB527: Prohibits people convicted of certain crimes from registering to vote
This ensures that those who have been convicted of election fraud or who have committed a criminal offense against a minor will not regain the right to vote.
All of the bills listed are endorsed by Voice Of The Experienced (VOTE), with the exception of HB 527, which the group is opposed to. They are asking everyone to call and email their Representatives. If you can make the trip to Baton Rouge, they would also like for as many people as possible to show up in blue shirts to show their support for the reform legislation (again, excepting HB527).
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.