Calcasieu DA addresses proposed prison reforms - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Calcasieu DA addresses proposed prison reforms

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CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

The United States Justice Department wants to change the way the federal government sends people to prison.

KPLC asked Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier what that means for Southwest Louisiana.    

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for every 100,000 Louisiana residents, 867 of them are imprisoned. It's the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

"We've been putting people in prison in Louisiana or 200 years now, and it has not worked as well as it should work," DeRosier said.

Attorney General Eric Holder wants prison reform, not just in Louisiana but nationwide. He has announced getting rid of prison minimums for first-time drug offenders and allowing state and local prosecutors to pursue lesser crimes.

"Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities," Holder said.

But Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier said there's something else that needs to be done.

"We -- particularly the federal government -- need to put money into re-entry programs, into drug court programs, into different types of programs that help rehabilitate people," DeRosier said.

DeRosier boasts what's already being done in Calcasieu Parish as a model for what can be done in other places.

"For example in our DWI programs ... Our objective is not to put impaired drivers in jail. Our objective is to keep impaired drivers off the highway and from behind the wheel of an automobile," DeRosier said.

Reinforcing the idea that in some cases, second chances are more beneficial than years in prison.

"Our goal is to keep them from becoming 2nd and 3rd offenders. That's why we have programs that are both short term in diversion and probation and the long term in the form of the prosecutors early intervention program," he said.

In addition to the change in prison minimums, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is asking that federal prosecutors go after serious crimes and leave crimes lesser in nature to state and local prosecutors.

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