Today, the Governor’s Office released the following response to Sen. John Kennedy’s misleading statements about Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts:
“Is anyone really surprised anymore that Sen. Kennedy would create an opportunity to score cheap political points by spouting wildly inaccurate and unrelated nonsense at the expense of the most promising bipartisan efforts to improve Louisiana’s criminal justice system and improve public safety in a decade all in the hopes that it would benefit him personally? The answer is no. Unfortunately, we’ve all grown used to his antics, but that doesn’t mean they are any less of a disservice to the people of our state.
“It is not lost on anyone that Sen. Kennedy timed his comments with the governor’s trip to Washington D.C. today where he participated in an event organized by The Pew Charitable Trusts and attended a meeting called by the White House to discuss this very topic. Honestly, the senator’s attention grabs are looking more and more desperate in the face of the great work being done here on the ground in Louisiana to move our state forward. The senator should dignify the people who elected him to represent them in Washington by focusing his efforts on the job before him, which ought to be working with the rest of us to improve and better our state rather than creating petty distractions.
“Sen. Kennedy is too caught up in his own political ambitions to see reality, and the reality is that the criminal justice reforms passed during the last legislative session were advanced by a bipartisan task force. The 10 bills that won legislative approval, 7 of which were authored by Republicans, were supported by a broad variety of stakeholders including: the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the District Attorney’s Association, Smart on Crime, Right on Crime, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and victims’ advocates.
“The legislation was debated in public hearings, and the governor and other supporters spoke to the media about these efforts regularly. In fact, these reforms were based on the most in-depth study of the criminal justice system ever done in state history in comparison to penalties in other conservative southern states and the recommendation was to move Louisiana more in line with those states that have seen a reduction in their recidivism rates. If Sen. Kennedy had real reservations as this process was unfolding over a year ago, he would have taken advantage of the many opportunities to participate in the process.”
(Attributed to: Tucker Barry, Press Secretary)
Below you will find detailed responses to Sen. Kennedy’s italicized claims:
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office found that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections violated public bid laws by embarking on a $6.3 million building renovation for Prison Enterprises without seeking bids. The work went to LeBlanc’s colleagues and his niece’s husband.
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections disagrees with the audit findings. The Louisiana Correctional Facilities Corporation (LCFC), not the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, was the responsible legal entity for renovations of building 10, and did so following all applicable procurement laws and regulations.
The bond commission approved the Louisiana Correctional Facilities Corporation’s proposal, and issued bonds to fund the project. LCFC, via its designer, then advertised and let contracts via a sealed bid process for all parts of the project requiring bidding, which included the mechanical and electrical components. Furthermore, all materials and supplies provided for this project by LCFC were purchased following all applicable procurement laws and regulations.
Governor Bobby Jindal signed an order on August 11, 2014, directing the use of offender labor. The goal of the order was to utilize inmate labor to do the demolition and basic carpentry work in order to provide training and rehabilitation for the prison population and in order to save approximately $3.3 million. Furthermore, the Department and legal counsel for the LCFC disputes the report’s legal conclusion that LCFC violated any applicable portions of the bid law.
See the Jones Walker memo included in the audit report, which advises that the selection of architectural services complied with the public bid laws applicable to LCFC. For a more detailed explanation, see the Department’s response and the Jones Walker memo included in the Legislative Auditor’s audit report.
WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge caught the department allowing inmates convicted of violent crimes and sex offenses to repeatedly leave prison to play music at nursing homes and interact with children at a park. When confronted, the department said it made a mistake.
The Dixon Correctional Institute Band has played without incident at literally hundreds of community events over the past several decades. The band is beneficial to nonprofits who would like to have the band play at their events, and it’s also beneficial to our offenders who are serving their time and rehabilitating. The offenders who play in the band are vetted by DCI administration before being allowed to play in the band, or leave prison grounds. We take public safety very seriously. These offenders leave the institution, and are escorted by armed corrections officers. They are under constant supervision. Louisiana Revised Statute 15:833 allows these individuals to go out into the public if they are under supervision. They are treated as medium custody offenders the entire time they are off prison property.
Allegations of nepotism, fraud and theft have been leveled against numerous wardens and senior administrators.
There never was any nepotism within the Department. The Department takes very seriously its human resources policies, and hires and promotes individuals based on their qualifications and in accordance with state ethics laws and State Civil Service rules and guidelines.
The Department works closely with law enforcement and Legislative Auditors to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing by any employee. The Department refers such allegations to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office found that DOC can’t keep proper tabs on where inmates are located even when they’re under lock and key at a parish prison. DOC also often calculates release dates incorrectly.
This did not hamper our ability to meet our mission and has not caused an increased risk to public safety, as offenders were being accounted for at the local level in accordance with agreement with the Sheriffs who house them. Local sheriffs house more than of the state’s DOC offenders, and the Department depends on these sheriffs to notify us when these offenders are moved to another facility. The Department recognized there was an issue and implemented a new notification policy effective, Monday, November 13, 2017. The new policy requires local jails to notify the Department of Corrections 24 hours prior to the transfer of a state offender with an exception to an emergency, in which case the local jail is required to notify Department of Corrections at least one business day after the transfer.
The audit did not state that the Department did not calculate release dates incorrectly. In fact, it was not in the scope of the audit.
DOC blew $3.6 million on an updated inmate tracking system. The department used the new system for six weeks before abandoning it.
The Department has hired a contractor to determine whether the system is salvageable. We expect to have an answer by the end of the year. We have not abandoned our work toward an integrated offender management system.
Released inmates already are being rearrested.
The vast majority of these offenders will not reoffend. However, there are those who may commit crimes. Prior to the November 1, 2017 releases, Louisiana’s state prisons released approximately 1,500 offenders each month. On November 1, 2017, the state released approximately 1,900 offenders, most of whom would have been released within the next 30 to 90 days anyway.
Furthermore, Louisiana law dictates which inmates serving for nonviolent offenses were released early pursuant to their recalculation of their good-time date. This is not subjective, and DOC has no discretion on choosing these inmates.