APPEL: On The Smokey White Case

Last week a career criminal named Smokey White robbed two workmen in Kenner at gunpoint, becoming the first of Gov. Edwards’ “Justice Reform” releases to revert to their inclination toward criminal behavior. While I certainly hope that this guy will be the exception and not the rule, only time will tell.

Early on this governor made his goal clear, without concern for anything other than numbers, he vowed to reduce prison population by 5,500 convicts. He set no prerequisites, just respond to “social justice” types and let 5,500 – some number of whom are just like Smokey White – go.

Many other well-intentioned people also wanted to see a change and they pointed to the success that Texas had had with its reforms. The problem with this comparison is that Texas invested $250 million in creating a structure to help inmates give up their prior lives in order to re-join society in a safe and productive manner.The key was that Texas created this structure BEFORE they implemented sentencing reforms. In Louisiana our governor pushed his release initiative forward with no support structure in place. He claimed that by linking a mandate to spend 1/2 of any savings on such a structure we can catch up.

Good luck with that!

Time will tell but one thing I firmly believe, crime is a matter of free will. No one has to rob, to kill, to carjack, to do anything. For reasons that elude us our people seem to have a tendency to commit crime at a higher rate than in so many places, hence our high prison population. Without a Texas-like support structure and, as important, with so many citizens who seem to assume criminality is acceptable I am afraid that we will see a whole lot more Smokey Whites among the current batch of 1,900 criminals let out of the jails, not to mention the hundreds and thousands more to come.

Perhaps I will be wrong, I really hope so. But I assume that with a governor who sees only numbers on paper without caring about any structure to change lives or about efforts to create jobs for convicts we have not seen the end of efforts to release more convicts. Texas did it right, structure first. Louisiana? Well we will see.

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