In partnership with Right on Crime, the Pelican Institute for Public Policy (Pelican Institute) today released a free-market agenda for smart, sensible criminal justice and public safety reforms under the organization’s policy platform, “A Jobs and Opportunity Agenda for Louisiana.”

Louisianans from all walks of life support policies that accomplish the goals of increasing public safety, reducing crime and recidivism, ensuring fairness for everyone involved and making wise use of scarce taxpayer dollars. Significant strides were made toward accomplishing these objectives in the 2017 landmark criminal justice reforms championed and passed by a broad cross-section of conservatives and liberals, business leaders, faith leaders and community organizations. But, there is much more to do, and Right on Crime and the Pelican Institute say that now is the time for Louisianans to demand even better results from the system and successful implementation of the 2017 reforms.

The roadmap to increased public safety and a fairer, more efficient and more effective system include:

  • Protect and serve as watchdogs for the implementation of the 2017 reforms in order to ensure they are given adequate time to allow the positive impacts to take effect.
  • Reform Louisiana’s laws dealing with civil asset forfeiture and criminal intent, also known as mens rea. Several states, including Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma, have offered solutions to address overcriminalization, criminal intent and strict liability provisions.
  • Reform Louisiana’s civil asset forfeiture laws, which are among the worst in the nation, to allow police to take temporary custody of a criminal suspect’s property and await conviction before assuming permanent ownership. Currently, the law allows Louisiana law enforcement to take ownership of property without even charging the owner with a crime.
  • Reform Louisiana’s fines and fees systems regarding conviction funding incentives and large time windows available for charging incarcerated individuals for crimes, which many argue violates Louisianans’ rights to speedy trials.

Greg Glod, manager of state initiatives for Right on Crime, praised Louisiana’s recent criminal justice reform efforts, adding that the new solutions offered will help the state continue to move in the right direction.

“Louisiana has shed its title as the top incarcerator in the country, and now it is time to solve the next crisis impacting the individual liberties and financial well-being of countless Louisianans,” Glod said. “No citizen should have his or her property taken permanently without just cause, and they certainly should not be convicted if they never intended to commit a crime in the first place. We believe these data driven solutions will correct two of the most critical errors in Louisiana’s criminal justice code, which remain barriers to the prosperity of the people and economy of the state.”

Daniel Erspamer, chief executive officer of the Pelican Institute, said rejecting emotional and anecdotal criticisms while further identifying and correcting fact-based inefficiencies with Louisiana’s criminal justice system is imperative for the future access of jobs and opportunity in the state.

“The power of government to deprive citizens of their life, liberty and property without the proper checks of due process and the rule of law runs directly contrary to the ideals of Louisiana and the nation as a whole,” said Erspamer. “As we did in 2017, we must arm ourselves with the  facts about the problems with Louisiana’s criminal justice system and seek examples of successful reforms in other states to craft our own policies to improve on the current situation. We believe the solutions we are offering are not only data driven and non-anecdotal, but they will help us better align with our values and help all of Louisiana’s working families in the long run.”

In the coming month, the Pelican Institute will conclude the release of its monthly policy solutions with papers highlighting reforms to Louisiana’s Medicaid system, as well as its legal and regulatory structures.

Check out the issue solutions papers regarding mens rea and civil asset forfeiture from Right on Crime and the Pelican Institute, as well as the full detailed solutions paper.