Outgoing Democratic Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has granted pardons to 56 inmates, including 40 convicted murderers, since October this year.
Despite Edwards’ attempts to address the state’s notorious incarceration rate, critics argue that his latest clemency decisions may have gone a step too far.
Critics argue that releasing individuals convicted of serious crimes poses a risk to public safety and undermines the justice system.
The anti-prison governor has been at the helm of criminal justice reforms in Louisiana with the aim of shedding the state’s label as “the world’s prison capital.”
During Edwards’ tenure, Louisiana has faced scrutiny for having the highest per capita incarceration rate not just in the United States but arguably in the world, with a staggering 1,094 individuals per 100,000 behind bars, according to Daily Mail citing data from the Prison Policy Initiative.
Edwards consistently argued that the state’s historical approach to crime and punishment has not resulted in a safer society.
“For as long as I can remember, Louisiana reflexively responded to an increase in crime by putting more people in prison and keeping them there longer,” Edwards stated in a recent interview with NOLA.com.
“We’ve never been made safer as a result of that. There is no data to suggest that an increase in crime here was because of the reforms.”
In 2017, the governor took a significant step by signing a package of 10 criminal justice bills into law, kick-starting the process of reducing inmate numbers and promoting rehabilitation over incarceration. These laws have resulted in hundreds of prisoners being released early from the prison system.
Among those pardoned are individuals convicted of first-degree murder, such as Ricky Washington, who was found guilty of fatally shooting a grocery store owner during an armed robbery in 1979, and Frederick Kirkpatrick, who was convicted for the 1982 killing of Steve Joseph Radoste, according to KTBS.
The list also includes Nick Charles Nicholson, who in 1981 received a life sentence for the stabbing death of convenience store worker Kelly Ann Gramm.
Below is a comprehensive list detailing all the individuals pardoned by Governor Edwards:
Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican and Edwards’ elected successor, has been critical of the outgoing governor’s approach to criminal justice reform and has pledged to pursue tougher sentencing and a more aggressive prosecution strategy as the state’s next governor.
Recall Attorney General Jeff Landry was elected as the Governor of Louisiana.
Louisiana’s open primary system is unique in American politics. Unlike most states, where primaries are held to determine the candidate for each party, Louisiana allows all candidates to run in a single primary election. If a candidate secures a majority of the vote, they win outright, avoiding a runoff. Landry did just that, capturing an impressive 51.6% of the vote.
Daily Mail reported:
On his campaign website, Landry states: ‘Crime in Louisiana is out of control. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport are three of the top ten most dangerous cities in the country.
‘Things will not get better until we have leaders who have the courage to stand up and make it a priority.
‘As governor, Jeff Landry will prioritize safety in our communities and continue to be a leading voice on public safety in our state.’
Landry states on his campaign website that he intends to hire more police officers, and empower them to make more arrests.
‘We must close the revolving door of criminals who commit a crime, get caught, go to jail for a brief period, and re-offend,’ he said.
‘This cycle of “catch & release” is unacceptable.