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WASHINGTON, D.C. – An amendment by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) to increase funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by $2.8 million passed the Senate this afternoon.  The funds for the increase to $10 million will be reallocated from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration account.  The amendment was made to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control reported that nearly 45,000 people took their lives in 2016.  From 1999 to 2016, suicide rates rose by nearly 30% in Louisiana.

“The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a confidential lifesaving resource to those who truly need help,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “There needs to be a light in the dark for those going through a tough time.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides that light.  That’s why increasing funding for this lifeline is so important.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill that will protect military reservists and the National Guard from furloughs during government shutdowns.  This amendment would give reserve forces the same work protections as active duty military members. 

Members of the National Guard and military reservists play an integral role in communities across the country.  They are often the first ones called in when natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and tornadoes strike. 

“Active duty military members continue working during government shutdowns.  Members of the National Guard and other reserve units should receive the same protections,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Our men and women in uniform make tremendous sacrifices for our safety.  They shouldn’t be impacted by partisan bickering in Washington.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R. La.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) applauded the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) proposal to reduce production for nearly all Schedule II prescription opioids by an average of 10% for next year.  The DEA is responsible for establishing annual quotas determining the exact amount of each opioid drug that is permitted to be produced in the U.S. each year. 

After today’s announcement, three powerful, addictive painkillers are set to see a significant reduction from what was allowed on the market just three years prior: a 38% cut to oxycodone production over three years; a 48% cut to hydrocodone production over three years; and a 48% cut to fentanyl production over three years. 

In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed targeted, bipartisan legislation that will enhance DEA’s existing opioid quota-setting authority by improving transparency and enabling DEA to adjust quotas to prevent opioid diversion and abuse while ensuring an adequate supply for legitimate medical needs.  The Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018 was introduced in March by Kennedy and Durbin, along with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).  The legislation will complement and strengthen recent DEA regulations on opioid quota-setting.  The bill is now under consideration by the full Senate.

“This is a huge first step in fighting the battle against our country’s opioid epidemic,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “In Louisiana, overdose deaths increased by more than 14% from 2015-2016.  By reducing the amount of certain Schedule II prescription opioids, we can begin to stop the abuse before it starts.  However, there is still work to be done to stop the addiction cycle.  That’s why my bill with Sen. Durbin is so important; we need an across the board cut to the number of manufactured opioids.”

“In 2016, the pharmaceutical industry produced 14 billion opioid doses—enough for every adult in America to have a three week supply of opioids.  Now we are in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis.  We are losing 115 Americans each day from opioid overdoses – more than 42,000 a year,” said Sen. Durbin.  “There is a growing recognition that we need to take a serious look at how many of these pills are allowed to flood our markets and streets.  That is why I commend the DEA for taking steps—three years in a row—to reduce the number of opioids allowed to be produced in the U.S.  But our work is not done.  Opioid quota reform is needed so DEA can take important factors like diversion and abuse into account when setting quotas, rather than chasing the downstream consequences of this crisis.  And my bipartisan legislation with Senator Kennedy will allow DEA to do just that.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get our legislation across the finish line.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement after the State Bond Commission blocked Citibank and Bank of America from doing business with the state of Louisiana.  Citibank and Bank of America are trying to prevent law-abiding business owners from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

“Citibank and Bank of America are trying to impose their political agenda on the American people.  In the process, they’re trampling on people’s Second Amendment rights.  That is a slap in the face to every single taxpayer who bailed those banks out during the Great Recession,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “The State Bond Commission made the right decision.  If you have zero respect for the U.S. Constitution, then you don’t need to do business with the state of Louisiana.”

Earlier this year, Sen. Kennedy sent letters to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder urging them to reevaluate state contracts with Citigroup and Bank of America over Second Amendment infringements.  Copies of the letters can be found here.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that  FEMA has awarded $1,190,584.42 to the Baker School System to help replace the contents of Baker High School that were damaged in the 2016 severe flooding.

“Two years after the catastrophic flooding, our schools and communities are still rebuilding,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “These funds are a step towards helping Baker High School rebuild stronger and even better than before.”

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent the following letter to President Donald J. Trump today about the failed prison reform effort in Louisiana:  

August 8, 2018

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Like you, I am deeply concerned about the scourge of crime, gang violence and drug addiction that is afflicting this great country.  Criminals are turning neighborhoods into war zones and small towns into drug dens.  In the process, families are being destroyed.  Some people make a youthful mistake and benefit from a second chance.  Other people never reform.  Prisons are a necessary fixture that make our communities safer.

As you prepare to hold meetings on prison and sentencing reform, I wanted to share a cautionary tale from my home state of Louisiana.  People are being killed because of the so-called criminal justice reforms that were put in place.

Louisiana started freeing several thousand inmates last year by reducing the mandatory amount of time that they had to serve.  The overall goal was twofold: reduce costs and give another state the title of world’s highest incarceration rate.  Inmates weren’t vetted by the probation and parole boards for their threat to public safety.  They weren’t paired with programs to reduce their recidivism.  They were simply released from prison.

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 started.  At least two of the inmates released ahead of schedule are back behind bars on murder charges. 

In the 23rd Judicial District of Louisiana, which encompasses small towns in three parishes, one in three inmates released through the Justice Reinvestment Act has been rearrested.  That’s a recidivism rate of 33% in less than a year.  Our five-year recidivism rate in Louisiana was 43%.  Because of the criminal justice reforms, our recidivism rate is on track to exceed 50%.  That is not progress. It shows that Louisiana is releasing career criminals purely to save on the cost of housing them.

Louisiana’s law enforcement officers and prosecutors – the ones who have to arrest, house and prosecute the same criminals they arrested, housed and prosecuted just a short time ago – are raising serious concerns.  The head of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association publicly said that Louisiana’s streets are not safer because of criminal justice reform.  He also noted that simply reducing prison population is not a measure of success.

The inmates already rearrested include:

  • Despite more than 60 arrests on his rap sheet, Tyrone “Smokey” White walked out of prison early because of Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Act.  White promptly robbed two roofers at gunpoint.
  • Ricko Canaz Ball – also known as Oil Slickster for his habit of breaking into automobile-related stores – was released in November despite a string of theft convictions.  He was arrested again in January in half a dozen burglaries.
  • Habitual offender Alton Brooks Jr. racked up four arrests within two months of his early release.  The new charges include battery of a police officer.  Brooks has a criminal history that consumes 51 pages in Jefferson Parish.
  • Richard McLendon got out of prison a year early because of Gov. Edwards’ criminal reform package.  He was arrested in June for gunning down a 61-year-old man in Haughton.  
  • Paul Jackson got out of prison five months early.  He’s now back in jail on a murder charge.

 

Additionally, the Louisiana Department of Corrections is not competent to handle the prison release program.  Consider:

  • Longtime Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola warden Burl Cain resigned in 2016 amid a cloud of controversy.  Mr. Cain hired a company to build a recycling plant at Dixon Correctional Institute for the state and then signed a personal contract to broker similar deals for the company.  Mr. Cain also is accused of going into business with the family and friends of prison inmates.  The Corrections Department later decided that arrangement was fine – partly because it wasn’t sexual - but said it might forbid similar arrangements in the future.  An audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office found that Mr. Cain’s family stayed for free and ate for free in homes owned by the state.
  • Mr. Burl Cain’s son, former Avoyelles Correctional Center warden Nate Cain, was indicted in 2017 on 18 fraud charges for inappropriately charging $152,000 to a state credit card.  He also faces an obstruction of justice charge.  According to an arrest warrant, Nate Cain and his wife, Tonia, also a prison Corrections Department employee, ordered prison employees to buy things for their personal use with state credit cards.  Investigators later seized a camera, Bose headphones, TVs, clothing and an airsoft gun wrapped as a Christmas gift from their home.  The state also spent nearly $80,000 building an almost 4,000-square-foot home for the Cains before construction halted amid questions about why state bid laws had been circumvented.
  • Mr. Burl Cain’s one-time subordinate, former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola supervisor Sidney Davis, was arrested last year for using prison employees’ club funds to buy alcohol, La-Z-Boy recliners, a sound machine and other questionable items, including nasal spray.  He told investigators that the purchases were an accident.
  • Another one-time subordinate of Mr. Burl Cain, Shirley Whittington, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud for stealing $115,000 from a fund that was supposed to be used to create recreational opportunities for prison employees and their families who live on prison grounds.  She used the money to shop online.  The theft went on for years.
  • A Louisiana newspaper described Governor Edwards’ Corrections Departments’ staff chart as a genealogical exercise because so many relatives of Mr. Burl Cain and Governor Edwards’ Corrections Department Secretary James “Jimmy” LeBlanc have been on the department’s payroll.
  • Mr. Gary Shotwell was deputy warden when Secretary LeBlanc was warden at Dixon Correctional Institute.  Mr. Shotwell and the husband of LeBlanc’s niece later got slices of $6.3 million in work on a building renovation the Corrections Department Secretary should have put out for bid but didn’t after Mr. LeBlanc became Governor Edwards’ Correction Department secretary.  The niece’s husband got the design portion of the project.  Mr. Shotwell got the construction portion.
  • Governor Edwards’ Corrections Department spent $3.6 million on an updated inmate tracking system.  The department used the new system for six weeks and then abandoned it.
  • Under Col. Edmonson’s leadership, State Troopers took a road trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon at Louisiana taxpayer expense. They charged the taxpayers overtime for their sightseeing.  Col. Edmonson later called the side trip irresponsible.  However, phone records – that he tried to erase - showed that he traded friendly text messages with the troopers during their excursion.
  • Three Louisiana State Troopers have been accused of claiming a massive amount of overtime they did not work, as a result of an undercover investigation by a New Orleans television station.  The television series, titled “State of Unrest,” included footage of troopers allegedly abusing a traffic law enforcement program by writing a full shift’s worth of tickets in a relatively short period of time.  One trooper was paid $240,000 in 2016, $147,000 of which was overtime. 

Unfortunate as it is, Mr. President, I hope Louisiana’s misguided attempt at criminal justice reform can prevent similar missteps.  Thank you for your consideration.

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

                                                                        John Kennedy

                                                                        United States Senator

 

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) raised concerns today about the Louisiana Department of Corrections’ ability to protect the public after the state’s district attorneys indicated that nearly a quarter of inmates released early through Gov. Edwards’ Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act have been arrested again.  At least two of the rearrested inmates are behind bars on murder charges.

Inmates were released without the probation and parole boards evaluating the risk to public safety.  In Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes, one in three inmates who were released early has already reoffended. 

The Justice Reinvestment Act has saved the state money, but few of the savings appear to be funding recidivism reduction efforts.  News reports indicate that pilot programs aimed at working with high risk offenders fizzled.

“It’s clear to me that DOC doesn’t know what it’s doing, and people are getting killed as a result.  You can’t let criminals out of jail and just expect them to behave.  That’s like starving a fox and then asking him to guard the henhouse,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “No one reviewed DOC’s early release decisions, and now the public is suffering the consequences.  The state might be saving money by emptying the prisons, but law enforcement and district attorneys are stuck with the tab for arresting and prosecuting these criminals over and over again.  Even worse, the public’s been placed in danger because of DOC’s incompetence.”

Here are a few of those rearrested:

  • Despite more than 60 arrests on his rap sheet, Tyrone “Smokey” White walked out of prison early because of Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Act.  White promptly robbed two roofers at gunpoint.
  • Ricko Canaz Ball – also known as Oil Slickster for his habit of breaking into automobile-related stores – was released in November despite a string of theft convictions.  He was arrested again in January in half a dozen burglaries.
  • Habitual offender Alton Brooks Jr. racked up four arrests within two months of his early release.  The new charges include battery of a police officer.  Brooks has a criminal history that consumes 51 pages.
  • Richard McLendon got out of prison a year early because of Gov. Edwards’ criminal reform package.  He was arrested in June for gunning down a 61-year-old man in Haughton.  
  • Paul Jackson got out of prison five months early.  He’s now back in jail on a murder charge.

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump tweeted support today for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) call to add work requirements for food stamps to the final version of the Farm Bill.  

“I would like to thank President Trump for supporting this important reform to the food stamp program.  We need to help people thrive,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “I don’t want to take food stamps away from people in need.  I want fewer people to need food stamps.  And the best way to do that is to implement a work requirement for food stamps.  As the House Farm Bill provides, if you are between 18 and 59, aren’t disabled and don’t have a child under six, you can still get food stamps but you also have to work 20 hours a week.  We will help you get a job; thanks to the tax cuts passed by President Trump and Congress, employers are begging for workers.  The goal of every government welfare program, including food stamps, should be to help people get a job.  There is dignity in work!”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate today to advocate that work requirements be added for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, in the final version of the Farm Bill.
 

“Government assistance was designed to be an off-ramp to help people leave poverty in their tracks, but it’s become a parking lot,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “People are stuck there, impoverished, with no exit in sight.  Farm Bill conferees will have the rare chance to fix it.  I want to urge my colleagues to consider adding a work requirement to SNAP in the final version of the Farm Bill.  I want an America that spends less money on food stamps because fewer Americans need help putting food on the table.  We owe it to the American taxpayer, and to every American who relies on SNAP, to reform the program so that it works as it was originally intended.”

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s full floor speech. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued a statement today after the Senate passed a four-month reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  The reauthorization protects more than 500,000 properties across Louisiana through the remainder of hurricane season.

“It would have been bone-deep, down-to-the-marrow stupid to let the National Flood Insurance Program expire in the middle of hurricane season, and my colleagues realized that,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “With this extension in place, we can tackle long-term reforms.  The last time we truly reformed the NFIP was never.  It’s about time we did.  The program needs to be affordable and sustainable.”

Sen. Kennedy has pushed for an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program while working on long-term reforms that will keep premiums affordable for families. 

A year ago, Sens. Kennedy, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) introduced comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to make much-needed reforms to address the waste and abuse in the program.  The legislation, entitled “The Sustainable, Affordable, Fair, and Efficient (SAFE) National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2017,” protects policyholders from excessive rate hikes.

 

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