Hoping to relieve prison overcrowding in their state, Louisiana legislators have passed a bill that will make it easier for elderly prisoners to get parole hearings.
Louisiana's bill H.B. 138, passed by the state legislature in less than a month, automatically makes certain prisoners eligible for a parole hearing as soon as they reach age 60.
The law will grant parole hearings only to prisoners who have been in state prison for at least 10 years, are 60 years-of-age or older, and were not convicted of violent crimes or sex-related offenses. In addition, prisoners must not have committed any disciplinary offenses while in prison for at least 12 months prior to their parole hearing.
Approximately one-half of Louisiana's state prison population - the largest in the nation - were convicted of non-violent crimes. Currently, 1,224 inmates or about 3% of the state's total prison population are 60 or older.
According to the Louisiana Department of Corrections, it costs the state $80,000 a year to house an ailing inmate, compared to $19,888 a year for healthy prisoners.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hailed the Louisiana law as "an important step towards reducing the state's unnecessarily high prison population."
"Louisiana should not be using taxpayer dollars to lock up elderly individuals when they pose no danger to our communities," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana in a press release. "The state's legislature deserves credit for tackling the state's problem of overincarceration by passing bills like this one."