Funds awarded from savings of bipartisan criminal justice reform
Baton Rouge, La —Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C) would award $1.7 million to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Criminal Justice (LCLE) for victims’ services as part of the overall reinvestment effort from Louisiana’s bipartisan criminal justice reform. The grants will be awarded to four organizations across the state to support victims of violence. In June, Gov. Edwards announced that the state saved $12.2 million, double the initial estimates, as a result of the reforms enacted in 2017. By law, 70 percent of the overall savings must be used to support victims, improve public safety, and reduce recidivism. The victims’ services grants are the first awards to be announced from the savings.
“For decades, Louisiana was known as the incarceration capital of the world,” said Gov. Edwards. “Today, that is no longer who we are. In 2017, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents came together to pass a comprehensive criminal justice reform package in Louisiana. Thanks to that bipartisan effort, we are beginning to realize the fruits of that hard work. One of the most important pieces of those reforms is our focus on supporting victims, which is why it is fitting that the first grant awards go toward empowering them. Throughout this entire process, crime victims have played a critical role in shaping the policies that we are implementing in Louisiana. They’ve offered input and guidance, and today we are delivering on our promise to them based on recommendations we’ve received from victims through the Justice Reinvestment process.”
Specific asks made by victims throughout the Justice Reinvestment process include:
- The right to be notified about hearings and decisions without having to register in multiple places
- The right to be financially restored for medical expenses, property losses, and time away from work related to the crime
- The right to feel safe and to have access to safety planning services
- And the technology and human resources to make these rights meaningful and enforceable
The grant awards are as follows:
- Establish a Family Justice Center in East Baton Rouge – $750,000: The Family Justice Center (FJC) will empower victims of family violence with resources necessary to maintain safety and stability for themselves and their families. The FJC will increase the safety level of victims of violence and prevent families from continual abuse and the negative effects that domestic violence has on families. The FJC will collaborate with the community partners and agencies working together to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Partnering agencies will be advocacy services, children and youth services, counseling services, and other various services organizations.
- Crime Victims Reparations Fund – $300,000:These funds will be utilized to pay down some of the backlog of crime victim claims still pending from previous years.
- Child predator technology improvements for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Child Predator Task Force – $100,000:These funds will be utilized to update and enhance computer capabilities for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Child Predator Task Force.
- Develop computer interface with Clerks of Court in all 64 parishes – $300,000:These funds will be utilized toward developing a computer interface for Clerks of Court in all 64 parishes to allow access to the VINE/LAVNS, a notification system to alert registered victims of an offender’s release from prison or movement through the justice system.
- LCLE administrative costs – $250,000:The remaining funds will be utilized by LCLE to pay agency administrative costs associated with implementing, monitoring, and managing the new programs.
“We are following through on the commitment we made to crime victims during the passage of criminal justice reforms, and our Justice Reinvestment Initiatives,” said Department of Corrections Secretary James Le Blanc. “Our crime victims now have a better chance of receiving the restitution they so deserve, but may not have been able to get. They’ll be notified more efficiently when inmates are being transferred or discharged, thanks to reinvestment and our partnership with clerks of courts across the state.”
“When the Legislature set out to reform the criminal justice system in Louisiana, we made a commitment to reinvest a substantial portion of the savings to promote public safety and reduce our nation-leading incarceration rate,” said State Representative Walt Leger, author of H.B. 489 (2017), which required that 70 percent of the savings be reinvested into these programs. “With this announcement, the Governor and the Legislature are making it clear that Louisiana is moving in the right direction. For the first time in generations, our criminal justice system is focused on evidence-based policy making, effectively spending taxpayer dollars, promoting public safety and reducing recidivism. By investing in victim services, job training, re-entry support and mental health and substance abuse programming, we are putting the people of Louisiana first and laying the foundation for a brighter future.”
“The staff at the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement identified four areas of victim services that could benefit from this funding,” said Jim Craft, Executive Director of the LCLE. “Establishing a family justice center in East Baton Rouge will allow additional services to be provided to victims of domestic abuse and other crimes not only in Baton Rouge but in surrounding parishes as well. Funds awarded to the Attorney General’s office will allow enhanced capabilities to apprehend child predators who utilize the internet. An interface with all 64 parish Clerk of Courts will allow victims to register for electronic notification regarding a suspect’s release from jail. Funds will also be awarded to the Crime Victims Reparations Board to address a backlog of cases dating back several years. We think this is a very wise use of the justice reinvestment funds received from the Department of Corrections.”