BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s criminal justice overhaul took a hit Tuesday after the House of Representatives voted to lengthen probation terms that were shortened during last year’s rewrite of sentencing laws.
Republican Rep. Sherman Mack’s proposal would extend the maximum length of probation terms for most nonviolent offenders from three years to five. It passed by a vote of a 61-30 and now moves to the Senate.
Mack, who said he was bringing the bill on behalf of the state district attorneys association, said the current law forces judges to send people to prison because the offenders can’t stay on probation for longer than three years. But if people could stay on probation longer, he said, it would keep them out of jail.
Debate on the House floor brought criticism from lawmakers who said the bill would overburden probation officers and not enough time had passed to start altering the mechanics of the overhaul.
“Make no mistake about it, this is not a minor change. To go back to five years of probation is a substantial rollback,” said Rep. Joseph Marino, an independent. “We’re going to go back to the old way, which wasn’t working, and hope that it works.”
Another part of the overhaul came under fire Tuesday when a Senate judicial committee voted out a measure barring people convicted of first or second degree murder from obtaining medical furlough outside a correctional facility. That bill is also heading to the full Senate for debate.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, last year signed into law 10 bills that he said made up the “most extensive, complete package of criminal justice reform” in the history of the state with the aim of decreasing the prison population.
House Bill 195 & Senate Bill 458: http://www.legis.la.gov
A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the vote tally as 62-28. The correct tally is 61-30.