ACLU of Louisiana releases statement on signature legislation House Bill 46, which would shorten the amount of time Louisianians can be jailed without charge

NEW ORLEANS – The House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice today passed HB 46, a bill that could significantly reduce Louisiana’s pretrial incarceration rate. The legislation, which is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a coalition of civil liberties organizations and crime survivor advocates across the political spectrum, would limit the amount of time individuals can be incarcerated without charge to five days in most cases and 30 days for more serious offenses, codifying the right to counsel at the preliminary hearing. House Bill 46, introduced by State Representatives Ted James and Edmond Jordan, seeks to address Louisiana’s high incarceration rate by curbing unnecessarily long jail stays.

“Today’s vote is a necessary step toward ending Louisiana’s pretrial crisis, which overwhelmingly harms Black, poor Louisianians,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms. “Our state has the highest pretrial incarceration rate in the entire country—and it’s no accident. Our laws allow people to languish behind bars for weeks and months without charge or conviction. If we are going to finally start turning the tide on our mass incarceration crisis, we must start implementing systemic changes, and House Bill 46 will do just that. The ACLU of Louisiana is so grateful to Representative James for his leadership in championing this long-overdue measure. And we couldn’t be more proud of the community support this bill has received so far. This proves that every voice counts and together we have the power to make a difference.” 

House Bill 46 received 170 public comments in support of the legislation. The House Committee voted 5-4 to move the bill to the full House of Representatives for debate and another vote. The bill would need 53 favorable votes there in order to move on to the Senate’s criminal justice committee.

“We are energized by today’s vote and excited to see bipartisan support for this bill as we continue to build a movement that dismantles systemic racism and achieves the transformational reforms needed to end this crisis once and for all,” said ACLU of Louisiana Advocacy Director Chris Kaiser. “Louisiana’s families, communities, and taxpayers have suffered from this crisis long enough. And today we were reminded that it doesn’t have to be this way. State and local officials can act right now to reverse Louisiana’s pretrial incarceration epidemic and pass HB 46.”

A fact sheet on the bill is online here: https://www.laaclu.org/sites/default/files/aclu_hb46.pdf.

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