Op eds

This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Gov. Jeff Landry (R-La.) first appeared in the Shreveport Times on March 1, 2024.

Louisianans are some of the most hospitable, fun-loving people on earth, and they deserve to live in safe communities where their families can thrive. Yet in far too many parishes, rampant crime has left families too scared to pump their own gas or sit with their children on their front porches.

This crime wave didn’t appear overnight. It was written into law. The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act, a legislative package former Gov. John Bel Edwards championed seven years ago, prioritized the comfort of violent criminals over the safety of Louisiana families. It shortened prison sentences, reduced penalties on repeat offenders and expanded parole options for suspected criminals — all while trying to paint criminals as “misunderstood.”

Look where we are now: Louisiana has the second-highest homicide rate and three of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the country. Crimi nals steal one car every hour in some parts of our state. Unless we make the necessary changes, an estimated one out of every 14 Black men under age 35 in New Orleans will be murdered.

As leaders, we cannot sit on our hands and allow failed policies to tear apart more Louisiana families. That is why the Louisiana Legislature’s Special Session on reducing crime was so important.

For too long, some Louisiana officials have been operating under the presumption that cops are a bigger problem than criminals. In turn, criminals have been thriving while our law enforcement officers are more demoralized than ever. Louisiana sheriffs’ offices are short roughly 1,800 officers statewide.

We can recount too many stories of Louisiana families who have suffered because of the last administration’s soft-on-crime policies.

Noah Hansard, for example, is learning how to live life in a wheelchair after a juvenile shot him during a violent robbery, leaving him paralyzed. Sherilyn Price, the mother of Brandon “Boogie B” Montrell, struggled to mourn her son’s murder because she was too busy trying to get answers from a district attorney who was less than transparent.

Jania and Jaylan Blount lost their mother, Cassandra Jones, when her ex-boyfriend killed her outside her apartment. Ms. Jones’ death might not have happened if her murderer — who was out on parole after one of his 25 arrests — had stayed behind bars. We could go on and on.

These stories should be rare, but Louisiana’s failed criminal justice experiment has made them common.

What you allow is what will continue. Under the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act, criminals in Louisiana knew they can destroy property, steal cars and shoot people without facing any serious consequences. And Louisianans live in fear because they knew these criminals wouldn’t face any consequences, too.

The last administration said emptying the jails would save money. Instead, these policies have cost Louisiana lives.

With this Special Session, the Louisiana Legislature restored law and order and put criminals on notice that they will face punishments for their crimes. It uplifted our police officers and ensured that victims have a transparent pathway to justice.

Louisianans shouldn’t have to live in fear when pumping their gas, getting groceries, or walking in their own neighborhoods. This special session was the first step to taking back our streets and empowering our citizens.