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Louisiana Drug Offender Program Leaves $5 Million Shortfall

A 2013 law passed by Louisiana lawmakers was expected to save $6 million by diverting drug offenders to treatment and shortening the prison sentences of such offenders by having them complete a drug treatment program. The law has not worked as planned, leaving the Louisiana Department of Corrections (LDOC) with a $5 million budget shortfall.

LDOC estimated 844 people would be eligible for the law’s benefits for those in prison. Under the law, first and second offense nonviolent criminals charged with drug possession and possession with intent to distribute are eligible. They must serve at least two years of their sentence and with one year or less left on the sentence, they can enter a 90-day treatment program. Only 165 people actually qualify for this fiscal year.

The law also provided for others convicted of drug offenses to be diverted to a drug treatment program, rather than prison, and have their conviction expunged upon completion. It was estimated by LDOC that 500 offenders would qualify under this provision. That program, however, has not even begun because LDOC has had trouble find substance abuse programs willing to participate in it.

Instead of saving $6 million, the law is set to save only $815,000 in FY 2013-14, LDCO has no commented on how it will fill the $5.15 million budget gap.

Source: Associated Press

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