U.S. Senator John Kennedy told members of the Baton Rouge Rotary Club he and Governor John Bel Edwards have fundamental disagreements that are driving an ongoing disagreement about last year's prison reform package.
"He calls it prison reform, I call it prison release," Kennedy quipped.
The two are trading blows ahead of Edwards' meeting with President Donald Trump Thursday about Louisiana's lower incarceration rate. Kennedy wrote a letter to Trump Wednesday arguing the reforms are not working. He says he wants to make sure the president gets "the whole story."
"I wish I didn't have to say this, but the senior leadership [at the DOC] is utterly incompetent," Kennedy said. "They're not qualified to run a food truck."
Kennedy says he wants the governor to create a panel to screen criminals before they are released on good time, even though early release is determined by law and not at the Department of Corrections' discretion. The governor's office is accusing Kennedy of playing politics because Kennedy is openly considering a run for governor in 2019. Kennedy says he hasn't decided if he's running yet.
"Up there, if they think you're going to be gone, you lose all your power," he said. "I can tell you I will make a decision."
Kennedy added he put a poll in the field last month that has him leading Edwards 51 to 37. He says he doesn't want to discourage other Republicans, including Jeff Landry, from running. "If you want to run for governor, then run. I think competition is a moral good."
The president will meet with Edwards and a number of other criminal justice reform leaders Thursday at 3 p.m. Kennedy says there are two bills floating around the capitol that would improve the federal re-entry program and release a number of non-violent offenders.
Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has taken an interest in criminal justice reform.
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