Make Louisiana Great Again ad

The Make Louisiana Great Again super PAC claims Gov. John Bel Edwards is endangering lives, thanks to the 2017 criminal justice reform laws he championed.

Claim #1

"John Bel Edwards let thousands of criminals out of jail early," the ad says.

The narration is accompanied by text on the screen. It reads, “Early release for 2,000 prisoners” and attributes this information to The Advocate.

This is false because the ad speaks in absolutes.

While it claims 2,000 prisoners were released early under the reform, it’s rounding up. According to the Louisiana Department of Corrections the actual number of prisoners released is 1,952.

Had the ad said “nearly 2,000” or “about 2,0000, the claim would not be false. To say “thousands,” however, is inaccurate.

Claim #2

The narrator says, “25 percent (of those released from prison) have already committed more crimes.”

This is false.

Once again, this is another case of rounding touted as an exact number. The ad cites an article from The Advocate, which says 22 percent. 

According to the article, that figure is based on an estimate by the East Baton Rouge District Attorney in 2018, when the DOC was winding down its one-year tracking period of the released inmates. 

A DOC spokesman told KTBS the department does not track prisoners for more than a year after their release. A public information request from the DOC revealed a 14.25 percent recidivism rate among prisoners released early under criminal justice reform during their first year out of prison.

Claim #3

The ad claims prisoners released early have committed “crimes against children, violent assault-- five murders.”

This is false.

It is also the reason KTBS and at least one other Louisiana television station pulled this ad.

The ad itself does not show the source behind the claim, but Make Louisiana Great Again provided 3 Investigates with a list of sources when asked.

The "crimes against children" claim references a car accident that killed an 18-year-old.

The driver responsible was drunk, and was convicted in the crash.

Not only is this not considered a crime against a child, the crash happened in 2015 -- about two years before criminal justice reform laws were passed. The driver was not out on early release at the time. 

The “violent assaults" claim refers to an armed robbery that took place in 2017.

Once again, calling a robbery an assault is a misclassification.

However, the robbery did take place five days after the suspect was released early from prison.

The claim of “five murders” is also false.

The ad cites a report from a Baton Rouge television station containing another estimate from the East Baton Rouge District Attorney.

The DOC contradicts this number as well,  saying three inmates that received early release are accused of murder. They have not yet been found guilty in a court of law.

Claim #4

The ad revisits the drunken driver case, using a clip from a Lafayette television station to make another claim.

“Jordan’s killer was released after serving 18 months, or 21 percent of his sentence,” a reporter says in the clip.

This is misleading.

The information is positioned in this ad to imply that the drunken driver who killed 18-year-old Jordan Michael Prince served so little of his sentence as a direct result of criminal justice reform.

While the driver did get out of prison after 18 months, it wasn't just because of the new laws.

KLFY-TV posted the full report on its website, in which a DOC spokesman explains that a plea deal reduced the majority of the driver’s sentence. The spokesman said criminal justice reform laws only shaved off 129 days.

Truth Test Grade: F, because KTBS has an obligation to maintain the highest standard of truth in what we broadcast. This ad falls short of that standard because it contains false and misleading information and convicts crime suspects before they have their day in court.

Brent Littlefield is a spokesman for the Make Louisiana Great Again PAC and a political advisor for Attorney General Jeff Landry. Littlefield said the PAC stands by the information in the ad, adding that law enforcement determined the former inmates to be killers.

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