Wednesday, 08 August 2018 14:03

Criminal or justice? Kennedy vs. Edwards and Louisiana reform for Trump's eyes

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Is it "criminal" or "justice"?

Regardless, Donald Trump is in the middle of philosophical or political or election battle involving Louisiana's US Senator John Kennedy and the current Governor, John Bel Edwards.

To be clear: "criminal" riminal, not as in a crime has been committed, but criminal in the more figure-of-speech connotation, meaning, simply "wrong". "Justice", not in the legal sense, but as in doing what is "right and just" regardless of emotions and sympathies.

 

So, is a letter from Senator Kennedy to President Donald Trump sent one day prior to Edwards's visit to talk criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump, "criminal or justice"?  

More evidence:


On Monday, Governor Edwards announced that he was being invited to participate in a criminal justice event at Bedminister (see Edwards’s announcement, below). The invitation, as did a prior one earlier during Edwards's administration, came directly form the President. Trump is a Republican and Edwards, a Republican.

Today, Senator Kennedy, a Republican, who has not decided if he will be a candidate against Edwards for the governor’s spot in 2019, released his own letter that he sent to President Trump. Here is that letter.

Governor Edwards responded with his own statement, counter-punching Kennedy’s US Senate letter to Trump. Below is that letter and the original notification from Monday of Edwards’s invite to the White House.

Here are tweets regarding the subject.

EDWARDS COUNTER-PUNCHES

Today, the Office of Gov. John Bel Edwards released new data regarding the bipartisan criminal justice reforms passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2017.  The information shows that, despite claims, the reforms in Louisiana are working and showing signs of success. 

Gov. Edwards was invited by President Donald J. Trump to attend a bipartisan policy disucssion on federal criminal justice reform efforts. 

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.

CORRECTING SEN. KENNEDY:

The Louisiana District Attorney’s Association supported the bipartisan reforms and both the DA’s and the Sheriffs serve on the oversight task force. (NOLA.com, May 2, 2017)

Sen. Kennedy is using flawed data from a single district attorney.  A complete factsheet outlining that misinformation is available here.

His claims regarding Burl Cain and Mike Edmondson: I’ll remind you that both have been removed by the Governor and any allegations of impropriety are being investigated by the proper authorities and will be dealt with accordingly

CLAIM: The overall goal was twofold: reduce costs and give another state the title of world’s highest incarceration rate.

FACT: The overall goal for the bipartisan reforms was to bring Louisiana sentences for non-violent, non sex crimes in line with the rest of the country and to use savings to expand programs that are already working to rehabilitate people and keep them from coming back to prison so that they can lead productive lives in their communities and with their families.

CLAIM: The result is that the Justice Reinvestment Act is failing the law-abiding public in Louisiana. Already, 22% of inmates have been rearrested, and it hasn’t even been a year since the releases.

FACT: The total re-arrest rate is roughly 19 percent which is 26% points less than the national average as reported in the NCI report.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), on an annual basis, 44 percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release.  Currently, following reforms, the state is trending 19% for total rearrests, according to the Department of Corrections.  The report is available here.

Sen. Kennedy has a minimal understanding of the criminal justice system, confusing re-arrests with recidivism.  These are two very different things.  Louisiana follows a national standard in calculating recidivism.  Average recidivism for first year is 15% (revoked or new conviction).  Louisiana is currently at 11.6%. 

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT:

Rep. Julie Emerson (R-Carencro) column: Give Louisiana justice reforms time to work

EDWARDS NOTIFICATION OF BEDMINISTER MEEETING

On Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, Gov. John Bel Edwards will travel to Bedminster, New Jersey to meet with President Donald J. Trump regarding Louisiana’s bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts.  Gov. Edwards accepted the President’s invitation to discuss how Louisiana implemented these reforms with the goals of lowering recidivism and improving public safety.  

“For too long, Louisiana held the title as the state with the highest incarceration rate,” said Gov. Edwards. “Today, that is no longer who we are.  Following the lead of other Southern, conservative states, we came together with legislators from both parties, the business and religious community, and advocates to enact sweeping reforms in our state.  The simple fact of the matter is that what we were doing just wasn’t working. We were locking more people up in Louisiana than anywhere else in the country, and our communities weren’t any safer for it. Our reforms are lowering the incarceration rate, improving public safety, and reducing the recidivism rate. It’s still early, but I’m looking forward to discussing how we made it happen with the President and others as we seek to tackle this problem on a national scale.”

In June, Gov. Edwards released the first performance report of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI).  The report is available here.  In that report, Gov. Edwardsannounced that Louisiana no longer had the nation’s highest imprisonment rate.  

The Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) goals include the following:

· Focus prison beds on serious threats to public safety

· Strengthen community supervision

· Clear away barriers to successful re-entry

· Reinvest savings into recidivism reduction and crime victim support

Gov. Edwards will travel to New Jersey on Thursday morning and return to Louisiana on Thursday evening.

 

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