JBE’s Criminal Justice Reform Implementation Is Now A Campaign Issue

In case you haven’t seen the ad dropped over the weekend by Louisianans for Job Creators, a PAC affiliated with Jeff Landry’s campaign, it’s worth a look…

Everybody knew this was coming, and it would have very likely been a front-and-center issue in the gubernatorial campaign had Landry or John Kennedy decided to run. Neither did, and both Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone have opted not to do a lot on the criminal justice reform package passed by the Louisiana legislature and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2017.

There’s a reason for this, which is that the criminal justice reform package had bipartisan support and several Republican legislators played key roles in passing it. Taking a hard line on it, and calling it a disaster, is a bit impolite to some of those legislators and also some of the institutional players on the state level who also supported it. The Pelican Institute, for example, is a huge backer of the package, and LABI was on board with it as well. So with neither Abraham nor Rispone having a true whip hand in lining up those actors yet, they’ve clearly made the decision not to tackle the issue. The fact that President Trump, who both sides are working to get down to Louisiana for a rally in support of their campaigns, was also on board with a federal criminal justice reform package, further pushes the issue to the side.

But Landry isn’t running for governor. He’s running for Attorney General, and despite the laughable assertions of the Democratic Attorneys General Association that his race against Ike Jackson is competitive, it isn’t. And Landry has been talking about the problems with criminal justice reform for quite some time, largely because there are critics of the package among the district attorneys around the state and Landry is in contact with them on a regular basis.

We’ve noted that while there are good things in the criminal justice reform package and it’s certainly a good thing when the state can get people out of the jails who don’t need to be there, as it will save taxpayer dollars and potentially increase the size of our productive workforce if we can make useful citizens out of erstwhile criminals, it’s not all gravy. For one thing, this was supposed to save the state money, and instead it’s resulted in Louisiana coughing up more per prisoner in reimbursement dollars to local sheriffs who house them, rather than realizing savings from having less people in jail.

Further, Landry’s office has documented five murders committed by alumni of the reforms, and there have also been a number of relatively high-profile malefactors who’ve been sprung as a result. The trail of those stories has gone relatively cold in the last couple of years, largely due to Edwards’ office essentially ordering local news organizations not to report criminals as having been let out as a result of the reforms when they’re re-arrested; that demand was mostly adhered to by TV stations and newspapers not wishing to get caught up in squabbling with the state Department of Corrections over the bureaucratic definitions of their release conditions, and so what was a potentially explosive news narrative just melted away. That’s too bad, because DOC is comically flawed in its lack of capability to properly implement any sort of criminal justice reform, and the public ought to know about that.

It’s clear Landry isn’t willing to let it go away for this election cycle, and he’s going to make trouble for Edwards on the issue. Which, again, he can do, since he doesn’t have a viable opponent.

What we’ve been expecting was for Landry to run ads talking about how he stopped Edwards’ left-wing social agenda of giving affirmative action to the transgendered in state contracts, or how he fought Edwards and won on the issue of responding “woke” Wall Street banks who discriminate against gun owners and sellers, or how he took a stand against Edwards’ corrupt political appointments. Those ads may well be coming, but the criminal justice reform piece was probably always going to be the lead story once Landry’s camp got started this cycle.

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