Polling Supports Louisiana Bi-Partisan Bills to Replace Death Penalty with Life without Parole
Louisianans Prefer Life Sentences Over the Death Penalty by 2 to 1 Margin;
Capital Punishment is Not A Tax Priority; Not A Political Priority ; Not A Law Enforcement Priority.
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Bi-partisan legislation introduced in the Louisiana House and Senate proposes replacing the death penalty with life without parole for all future offenses. The authors of the bill include Republicans and Democrats, former prosecutors and law enforcement leaders.
The legislation introduced by Representatives Landry and Plyant in the House, House Bill 101 and by Senator Claitor, Senate Bill 142 is consistent with a 2016 statewide poll which shows that Louisianans prefer life sentences over the death penalty as a punishment for first degree murder by a 2 to 1 margin.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents chose either life without parole (42%) or 35 years to Life (15%) as their preferred punishment for first degree murder, while just 24% selected the death penalty. Life sentences crossed partisan lines with 70% of Democrats, and a strong plurality of Independents (47%) and Republicans (44%) indicating this preference. Life sentences are especially preferred among voters under 40 (71%).
The poll also found that a majority of voters did not include the death penalty among their tax priorities, which were dominated by K-12 education (88%), health care (88%), roads and highway repairs (85%), and higher education (75%). Only 37% of voters said that preserving the death penalty was a priority.
“These poll results, along with recent sentencing trends, show that Louisiana citizens are no longer willing to put their name behind the death penalty,” commented Mercedes Montagnes of the Promise of Justice Initiative. “Even for those people who like the idea of the death penalty in theory, spending 100 million dollars over ten years for a government program that doesn’t work is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.”
The poll of 600 Louisiana voters was conducted between March 9th – March 16th 2016, by Multiquest International and included a random sampling of voters from every parish in the state.
On April 4, 2017, Promise of Justice Initiative Board Member, Wilbert Rideau, spoke on an esteemed panel at Tulane University about the impact of Louisiana’s racial history on the current excesses in the criminal justice system.
He was joined by fellow authors who all linked the devastating history of slavery in Louisiana to over-incarceration and inhumane prison conditions. Mr. Rideau also pointed to economic incentives which drive the continued expansion of the criminal justice system.
Photo: PJI Director Mercedes Montagnes, Author Gilbert King, Civil Rights Attorney Mary Howell,
& PJI Board Member and Author Wilbert Rideau
Today the Justice Reinvestment Task Force voted through recommendations to make Louisiana’s Justice System safer, more humane and more cost efficient.
The reforms proposed in the final report would ensure consistency in sentencing, focus prison beds on those who pose a serious threat to public safety, strengthen community supervision, clear away barriers to successful reentry, and reinvest a substantial portion of the savings into evidence-based programs and prison alternatives and services that support victims.
The full report can be found here.
While it will take hard work and determination to ensure these recommendations become law this coming legislative session, we believe that the Louisiana legislature will do the right thing and make these necessary changes to ensure that Louisiana is no longer the incarceration capital of the world.
The Governor's Office press release concerning the task force recommendations can be found here.
On Wednesday March 1, 2017 criminal justice reform groups #cut50, the Promise of Justice Initiative, and Louisianans for Prison Alternatives invited the public and members of the Justice Reinvestment Task Force to come together to discuss the policy recommendations the Task Force will submit to the legislature.
The event was a part of #cut50’s National Day of Empathy campaign aimed at humanizing the lives of people impacted by America’s criminal justice system, including people who have been incarcerated, their families and friends, and crime survivors.
The national day of action was organized by #cut50, a bipartisan initiative founded by Van Jones and Jessica Jackson Sloan working to make our communities safer while decreasing the prison population. In addition to Louisiana, over fifty state and national organizations participated in the Day of Empathy in order to reach hundreds of lawmakers.