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Kennedy targets the Governor over the state's new criminal justice overhaul

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Governor John Bel Edwards is responding to criticism from Senator John Kennedy.

Kennedy is targeting the Governor over the state's new criminal justice overhaul. The Senator says he has "zero confidence" in the state's ability to roll out those changes.

It began earlier this week after Governor Edwards met with White House officials about the criminal justice overhaul. That meeting spurred Senator Kennedy's torrent of criticisms claiming that the program will make Louisiana less safe.

"We have a lot of great legislators in Louisiana, most of them, but we know if the Governor asked them to join the Taliban, they would do it," exclaimed Senator Kennedy

Kennedy is not sold on the bi-partisan effort between the Legislature and the Governor's office to reduce Louisiana's incarceration rate, the highest in the world.

The basic idea of the reform program is to have fewer prisoners housed which will save the state money that can be redirected toward rehabilitation programs.

But, Senator Kennedy claims that the laws don't match reality and that the department of corrections is too inept to carry out the program.

"The department has been charged in the past with nepotism, and fraud, and no-bid contracts. we've had wardens that have resigned, we've had other wardens that have been indicted," explained Senator Kennedy.

Later in the interview, Senator Kennedy explained, "What particularly disturbs me is the recent auditor report that basically says the department of corrections doesn't know where their prisoners are."

But, Governor Edwards says Kennedy's claims are wildly inaccurate and misleading, and that he's using this opportunity to score cheap political points.

"That's his M-O; he's 100% political all the time and he's wrong most of the time," Edwards said of Kennedy "The task force on criminal justice reinvestment actually met for two years. I don't know if he ever went to a single meeting or made any inquiries." 

Kennedy says he's familiar with the new law. He argues it won't save the state money, while putting dangerous criminals back on the street.

"I've read the bill, but you know what I've learned in politics; you watch what people do, not what they say," explained Kennedy

State officials say the new justice reform package will save the state 26 million dollars per year, and reduce the state prison population by 10 percent.  So far, nearly 2,000 offenders have been released under the program.
 

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