New York Times editorial board praises Louisiana’s criminal justice reform

The New York Times editorial board Wednesday (July 19) praised Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature‘s decision to pass new laws to reduce its prison population and save the state money.

“It’s encouraging that in a state with a heavily Republican Legislature and a new Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, who made the package central to his candidacy, the changes passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities,” wrote the editorial board.

The board also drew a contrast between Louisiana’s action this year and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ approach to criminal justice issues. Sessions recently ordered federal prosecutors to seek longer, tougher sentences for all defendants, including those accused of nonviolent, drug crimes. Louisiana, meanwhile, just reduced many of its sentences for nonviolent offenders.

In this Aug. 18, 2011 photo, prison guards ride horses that were broken by inmates as they return from farm work detail at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. Some prisoners spend eight hours a day training horses to work in some of the most chaotic situations police officers face: everything from controlling huge crowds to helping break up riots. They also use the animals for work at the prison farm, cultivating fields, helping to control weeds, hauling wagons and equipment. They also sell them, with their second annual horse sale scheduled for October. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Criminal justice experts believe longer sentences for nonviolent, minor crimes do not make communities safer. They can actually hurt society, by taking people away from their families and out of the workforce for longer periods of time.

“If Mr. Sessions could let go of his outdated worldview long enough, he might see that across America — and particularly in the deep-red South from which he hails — new approaches to justice reform are rightly winning the day,” said the editorial board in its closing statement.

You can read the The New York Times editorial here.