Baton Rouge Democrat Ted James is named Criminal Justice Committee Chairman and plans to approach incarceration reform, marijuana, and capital punishment with a focus on their fiscal impact.

The bipartisan criminal justice reform of 2017 significantly reduced the state’s prison population, but James says he will guide the committee towards further reductions with a new pitch.

“There are some folks who want to talk about the morality behind it, folks want to talk about a broken system, but more importantly we have to talk about the savings and how we are spending an ungodly amount of money incarcerating people for nonviolent crimes,” says James.

Louisiana retook the title of the nation’s highest per capita incarcerator last year after briefly dropping to 49th following the 2017 criminal justice reform.

Marijuana decriminalization is spreading to more states every year, and James says he plans on introducing decriminalization legislation to the committee with a focus on the cost savings.

“I think it is the right thing to do, we’ve seen it locally here in Baton Rouge where we have shifted our focus and we are not arresting our way out of this problem, and we’ve seen it in other areas,” says James.

Louisiana currently allows for the tightly regulated sale of medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions.

James says capital punishment repeal is likely to be back on the docket and compared to previous years he plans on permitting an extensive public hearing on the topic.

“Why we are not executing people, the fact that we can’t get the drugs to do it, and we’ll have an honest conversation with DAs about whether or not this is in fact something that is deterring crime,” says James.

James also anticipates gun legislation will be addressed as well.

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