UPDATE: Kennedy sends letter to Trump, Gov. Edwards responds
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is attacking Louisiana's criminal justice overhaul in a letter to President Donald Trump that comes with pointed timing.
Kennedy sent the missive a day ahead of Gov. John Bel Edwards' Thursday meeting with the president about the criminal sentencing law changes that Edwards has championed. Kennedy says the changes are "failing the law-abiding public in Louisiana" and jeopardizing public safety.
Kennedy, a Republican, is mulling a run against the Democratic governor in the 2019 election. Edwards' office says Kennedy is using incorrect data and "routinely manipulates information to fit his narrative."
Louisiana expanded probation and parole opportunities and reduced sentences, mainly for nonviolent offenders. Most of the savings from the prison population reduction must pay for programs aimed at keeping exiting inmates from returning to crime.
In an email sent to KNOE, a spokesperson for Edwards' office said the following:
In response to false claims made by Sen. John Kennedy, Richard Carbo, spokesman for Gov. Edwards released a statement:
"This information by the junior senator is unequivocally wrong. He has never been one to let facts get in the way of a good headline and routinely manipulates information to fit his narrative. The bipartisan criminal justice reforms are working in Louisiana and were modeled off of reforms implemented in other Southern conservative states. By focusing on incarcerating more violent offenders, Louisiana is getting smarter on crime and able to put in place programs that ensure non-violent offenders are better prepared to enter society.
"Republicans, Democrats and Independents, as well as the business and religious community came together to pass these reforms. Louisiana was spending $700 million per year to incarcerate more people than anywhere in the country, but our communities were not any safer for it. Today, that’s no longer the case as we relinquished that title. We’re reinvesting the savings from these reforms into programs that will reduce recidivism.
"This is strictly politics for Sen. Kennedy who is openly considering running for governor. He’s embarrassing the state of Louisiana in his letter to the White House, but even worse, he’s scaring the public using flawed data. With Sen. Kennedy, you can always expect him to put his political ambitions ahead of the people of he represents. Gov. Edwards is honored to be invited by President Trump to have a serious bipartisan policy discussion about these successful reforms."
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