Bills seeking to reform the state’s criminal justice system are heading to the governor’s desk. The measures implement sentencing reform for some offenders and offer parole eligibility for more inmates. Prairieville Representative Tony Bacala spoke in opposition because he says the state’s high incarceration rate is driven by crime.

“We’re trying to say why do we incarcerate so many people. What’s forgotten in in the argument is that we have the highest murder rate of any state in the country, and it isn’t even close,” Bacala said.

But Houma Representative Tanner Magee disagrees. Supporters of the governor’s criminal justice reform package say it will help reduce the state’s inmate population by 10 percent over the next decade. Magee says these bills will do just that.

“We are the number one incarcerator in the world. Let’s not forget that. We have a similar population as South Carolina. We have a similar crime rate as South Carolina. They’re number ten, and we’re number one,” Magee said.

One of the measure would provide parole eligibility for about 160 murderers convicted in the 1970s. Magee says the law at the time said these offenders would have parole eligibility after 20 years. He says the legislature later removed that eligibility, and this measure simply rights that wrong.

“This does not mean they get out. This means they go to the parole board and have the opportunity to be released after 40 years. Originally it was 20. We still increased it to 40 years,” Magee said.