NEW ORLEANS -- Prentiss Pope is a free man after serving nearly a year in prison.
"It feels wonderful," Pope said.
Eyewitness News talked with him shortly after he left the New Orleans Parole and Probation Office. He briefly shared his story. He was a troubled youth and was unable to get the help.
"I had a problem, I had a drug problem," Pope said.
He later ended up in trouble with the law and was sent to State prison.
"I went in and rehabilitated myself, took anger management classes and everything they had to offer and I think it helped me out as a person.
Pope says he's thankful to be released a few months ahead of his original sentence. He is one of about 1,900 inmates in the state that are being released early as part of an effort to reduce incarceration. Under the new law that was passed earlier this year, non-violent offenders are eligible for good time release after serving 35 percent of their sentence.
But those who oppose the law are concerned about whether this makes it easier for criminals to get back on the streets.
"They deserve a chance people who choose not to turn their life around, they're as obvious as the day is long and they won't get that same chance," said former NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
Serpas says many other states have adopted similar measures and crime has dropped.
"We can't afford to have any of those beds filled up with people who are not a danger to us, who we're not afraid of," Serpas said.
Of course, he said there will be some cases that are the exceptions.
"But we have to have a finer lens that have to be in prison, and other people that we could do other alternatives that are less disastrous to them, and the person they might have committed a crime against, and the families of all involved."
Overall Serpas says there will still need to be more reforms, but at least for now, this change gives hope to former inmates like Pope.
"I just want to encourage people that before they get into situations like this to be mindful that this could happen," Pope added.
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