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Louisiana adopts sweeping justice reform, and Massachusetts moves closer.

In an effort to keep his campaign promise to rid the state of its title as “incarceration capital of the world,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a criminal justice reform package into law in June 2017.Julia O’Donoghue, “Louisiana Criminal Justice Reform: What You Need to Know About the Changes,” Times-Picayune, June 29, 2017. The package, which consisted of 10 individual criminal justice bills, was passed with bipartisan support.Allen, “Edwards Signs Criminal Justice Overhaul” (2017). The laws reduce certain mandatory minimum sentences, reduce sentences for many low-level drug offenses, and emphasize alternatives to incarceration, such as drug courts.Allen, “Edwards Signs Criminal Justice Overhaul” (2017).

As a result of these reforms, lawmakers expect that Louisiana’s prison population will decrease by 10 percent over the next decade.Allen, “Edwards Signs Criminal Justice Overhaul” (2017). Moreover, 70 percent of the funds that otherwise would have been spent housing those sentenced to correctional facilities—an estimated $262 million—will instead go towards rehabilitation efforts and supporting victims.Allen, “Edwards Signs Criminal Justice Overhaul” (2017).

  In October and November 2017, the Massachusetts Senate and House each passed sweeping criminal justice reform bills.Fraga, “Sweeping Changes to Massachusetts’ Criminal Justice System” (2017). A conference committee is meeting to reconcile the differences between them, but both include significant changes.Fraga, “Sweeping Changes to Massachusetts’ Criminal Justice System” (2017). The Senate bill, for example, retroactively repeals certain drug-related mandatory minimum sentences, raises the age for criminal responsibility to 19, and reduces the number of fees, fines, and license suspensions that people who have been arrested or convicted face.Fraga, “Sweeping Changes to Massachusetts’ Criminal Justice System” (2017). To address the opioid epidemic, the bill increases penalties for those trafficking synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.Fraga, “Sweeping Changes to Massachusetts’ Criminal Justice System” (2017).