On behalf of the members of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber Diversity and Inclusion Committee, I want to express our sincere gratitude to all the legislators who supported the criminal justice reform package recently signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards, and specifically those who authored and co-authored the legislation. We also want to thank the governor, Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc and the members of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force for their leadership and work on this very important issue, which laid the foundation for this historic achievement.

The 10-bill legislative package included several sentencing reform measures, which will reduce our state’s prison population by an estimated 10 percent over the next 10 years, saving the state $262 million in incarceration costs. The Department of Public Safety and Corrections will be tasked with reinvesting 70 percent of those savings into programs that rehabilitate offenders and support victims.

Although Louisiana spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on corrections, the large majority of these funds are used to maintain public safety, leaving little funding for rehabilitation and job readiness programs for offenders. Along with public safety, rehabilitation and reducing recidivism should be priorities for our correctional system, yet one in three people who leave prison in Louisiana return within three years. Our committee strongly supports reinvestment efforts that focus on evidence-based programs proven to reduce the likelihood that formerly incarcerated persons will return to prison and those that eliminate barriers preventing them from successfully re-entering the workforce.

As the BRAC Diversity and Inclusion Committee continues to champion efforts that promote diversity and inclusion in the Baton Rouge business community and its workforce, we will be closely monitoring justice reinvestment efforts, and commit to providing our assistance where needed, to ensure these touted reforms leave a positive and lasting mark on our region.

Cheri Ausberry

BRAC committee chair

Baton Rouge