Archive for July 12th, 2011

Some inmates may have early parole

A new bill signed into law could mean that senior citizens fitting a certain criteria could be eligible to appear before the parole board and possibly released from prison.

House Bill 138, signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, allows for certain inmates who are at least 60 years old and who have served at least 10 years of their prison term to apply for consideration from the board.

Angela Whitaker, spokeswoman and confidential assistant to state Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James Leblanc, said the bill will affect eight men and one woman.

“It is an eligibility bill so they can go before the parole board,” Whitaker said. “We have looked at the state facilities, and we don’t think it will have a huge impact.”

Of the nine, only one is housed at a prison (Wade Correctional in Homer) in northern Louisiana. However, the Department of Corrections currently houses more than 1,200 inmates who are older than 60. The DOC estimates it costs $20,000 per year to house a prisoner, and that figure could go up to $80,000 to house a sick or ailing inmate.

The new bill has strict stipulations. Criteria include that the offender has not been convicted of a violent crime or a sex offense, the offender has not had any disciplinary offenses in the 12 months prior to the parole eligibility date, the offender has completed mandatory minimum of 100 hours of pre-release programming and completed a substance abuse program if applicable.

Other criteria include that the offender has obtained a GED unless the offender has previously obtained a high school diploma or is deemed by a certified educator as being incapable of obtaining a GED. In this case, the offender must complete a literacy program, an adult basic education program, or a job-skills training program.

The offender also must have a low-risk level designation approved by LeBlanc.

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones said he has some reservations about the bill and doesn’t want to see habitual offenders fall through the cracks and be released into society.

He said a prime example would be the case of Anthony Glen Wilson of Monroe.Wilson was convicted in July 2007 of simple burglary that netted him a bottle of cologne and 58 cents. Based on the habitual offender law, Wilson was later handed a life sentence for the burglary.

But, Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies linked Wilson’s DNA to the 1981 murder of Kathy Whorton of Bastrop, and authorities believe he may have committed two other murders around that time. Although authorities matched his DNA to the crime scene, he was never tried for the murder because the autopsy report and other evidence were lost over the years.

“We convicted a person believed to be a serial killer for stealing a bottle of cologne,” Jones said. “I don’t care if he is 100 years old, he should not be eligible for parole. Certain criminals should not be eligible.”

Officials said Wilson, who is 52 years old and housed at Louisiana State Penitentiary, is a sex offender and will not be eligible. But, other habitual offenders might be.

Local defense attorney Charles Kincade said the law could save the DOC money.

“I think it is a great thing,” Kincade said. “It is compassionate and humane. It makes common sense from a financial standpoint. It is going to cease spending scarce public money on housing and essentially release harmless people.”


On paper this sounds great, I just worry that it is going to be done by procedure without thought and actual investigation.

Also, even with a GED and job training most of these older prisoners are going to have a hard time finding a job just due tojob availability (especially now) and the health concerns will make employment after incarceration even harder.  So then it will be out of prison, on to the streets and onto welfare.

It might relieve the prison finace numbers but I do not think it is actually going to help the state much overall.

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