New head of Louisiana District Attorney’s Association no friend of reform
Earlier this month, District Attorney Ricky Babin was elected president of the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association.
He’ll take on this new role at a critical time for criminal justice reform. But Babin’s history and past statements suggest he will not be a voice for change, and will instead defend the status quo that has made Louisiana the most carceral state in America.
Babin has been the district attorney of Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes since 2009. During his time in office, Babin has repeatedly expressed support for the state’s policies that lock people up, and according to his own website prosecuted about 3,500 felonies a year— a large number for a district with about 170,000 people.
Babin has stood in the way of reform before. Earlier this year, Gov. John Bel Edwards formed a task force aimed at decreasing the number of incarcerated people in the state. The LDAA came out strongly against proposals that would reduce the sentences of people convicted of violent crime.
And Babin was one of the most vocal critics of the task force, at one point claiming that everyone in a Louisiana prison deserved to be there.
“These people have criminal records as long as my leg,” said Babin in a New Orleans Times-Picayune article. “There is not a single person that we put in prison that doesn’t deserve to be there.”
As the chairman of the Louisiana Sentencing Commission, Babin was criticized for focusing on punishment, over other areas like rehabilitation. The sentencing commission also looked at marijuana convictions in the state but did not make their findings public, and opposed legislation that would have given juveniles sentenced to life in prison a chance at parole.
The state legislature passed a bill saying the commission had strayed too far from it’s original mission. “It was just a subtle reminder of what the Sentencing Commission is supposed to do,” said state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, in an interview with The Advocate.
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who sponsored legislation that created the Sentencing Commission when he was a state legislator, said the commission wasn’t interested in reducing the prison population even though it costs taxpayers $600 million a year. Louisiana jails people for nonviolent offenses at three times the rate of Florida and twice the rate of South Carolina.
“What they should be focused on is how to keep the state from spending hundreds of millions of dollars by locking people up instead of being smart on crime,” Richmond stated.