Criminal justice reforms have been effective

Criminal justice reforms have been effective

A 2017 bipartisan package of criminal justice reform bills aimed at reducing Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate has been successful and saved the state $150 million in the process, according to a new report from the state’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. The savings from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative stems from the reduction of non-violent offenders in Louisiana jails. The Lens’ Nick Chrastil reports

The savings are calculated by looking at the population drop in the prison population each month and multiplying that by a per diem rate, (DOC Undersecretary for Corrections Services, Thomas) Bickham said. Those yearly savings are then used as the baseline savings for the following year. The savings are then divided among the state general fund, the Office of Juvenile Justice, the DOC, victims services administered by the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, and a grant program that funds organizations who provide services “in effort to reduce prison admissions, reduce returns to prison, and improve community coordination of reentry services.”

A critique of privatized public education
Over the past 30 years Louisiana has privatized many elements of its education system in order to raise low student test scores. But the state’s paltry composite ACT score – which fell for the fifth consecutive year with only four states performing worse in 2022 – shows that privatization is not the panacea that leaders touted. J. Celeste Lay, professor of political science at Tulane University, in a guest column for The Advocate, previews her research about New Orleans charter schools and why efforts to privatize education are flawed, undemocratic and failing our children. 

My book shows that in reality, many parents are confused by the system and do not believe it is fair. They see that the racial disparities that have long been a hallmark of New Orleans public schools continue in this new, supposedly better system. The few White children attending public schools are enrolled in selective admission schools that require admission tests and have other barriers to entry. Most children in the district are Black and continue to attend low-rated schools that are anything but diverse. On average, Black parents do not believe their children are getting a great education, and they believe they have little recourse to do anything about it.

Separate reports from the Louisiana Legislative auditor show that teachers in public charter schools are much less likely than public school teachers to be certified, and state charters are falling short of a key requirement of serving low-income students in its area. 

Lame-duck debt ceiling push 
Congressional Republicans have said they plan to use the federal debt-ceiling fight to force spending cuts to important programs – possibly including Social Security and Medicare – if they regain control in this fall’s elections. This despite the global financial crisis that could result from using America’s borrowing limit as a bargaining chip. But Democratic lawmakers are considering options to address the issue in the lame-duck session to avoid an economic crisis. Vox’s Li Zhou explains:

The US is currently projected to hit its existing debt ceiling sometime in 2023, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. While raising the ceiling should be relatively straightforward, it’s become a contentious process — and an opportunity for the minority party to extract policy concessions or score political points. Both parties have used debt ceiling increases to their advantage, but Republicans have done so much more frequently in recent years. In 2011, for example, Republicans balked on suspending the debt limit and refused to move forward until President Barack Obama agreed to key spending cuts, concessions they ultimately secured. The US got so close to default that year, however, that Standard and Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating.

EPA closes Louisiana school because of pollution 
Last month the Environmental Protection Agency created a new office focused on civil rights and environmental justice. One of its first objectives was determining if Louisiana regulators discriminated against Black residents when allowing the Denka Performance Elastomer plant to locate near neighborhoods and schools in Reserve, Louisiana. Now, agency officials are calling for Fifth Ward Elementary School, which sits one mile away from the plant, to be temporarily closed due to high levels of toxic pollutants. BRProud’s Shannon Heckt reports:

A 56-page report from the EPA External Civil Rights Office suggests “the cancer risk from exposure to chloroprene emissions due to LDEQs actions and decisions clearly fall ‘substantially disproportionately’ on the Black residents who live near the Denka facility, as compared to non-Black residents.” The EPA has used a benchmark for air pollution when it comes to cancer risk at an excess of 100 in 1 million. The report states that air pollution control measures were implemented in 2018 and have reduced some of the air pollution from the Denka plant, but they remain high. One census tract close to Denka in 2018 showed four times the acceptability for cancer risk in a 70-year lifetime. The EPA is particularly concerned with the school’s location because exposure to chloroprene as a child can increase the risk for cancer later in life.

Number of the Day
7.08% – Average rate on a 30-year mortgage, the highest level since 2002. (Source: New York Times)