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Louisiana's Most Influential Lobbyists Coalesce around Criminal Justice Overhaul

As he's done many times over the past few months, Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc got up in front of a crowd last week to talk about criminal justice overhaul. 

LeBlanc has been going around the state for most of the past year talking about what can be done to bring down Louisiana's prison population. He headed the corrections department for Gov. Bobby Jindal and is now working for Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Jindal didn't have much interest in changing the prison system, but Edwards has made lowering Louisiana's incarceration rate a priority. So LeBlanc has been trying to gin up support for the governor's efforts around Louisiana. 

Still, LeBlanc is mainly preaching to the choir. His crowds are made up mostly of advocates, legislators, ministers, law students, and others who are already on board with plans to reduce Louisiana's prison population.

But last week, when he looked out on the crowd at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Baton Rouge, he saw new faces -- or at least the faces of people who don't regularly attend these types of meetings. It was also a big event, with more than 250 people.

That's because this meeting wasn't arranged by a social services group, nonprofit organization or law clinic. The half-day summit was organized by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the state's largest business group. Instead of public defenders, sheriffs, and district attorneys, LeBlanc was speaking to Louisiana's CEOs and biggest employers. 

"It was a different crowd for sure," LeBlanc said. 

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