Man behind bars.

Will Kentucky Reconsider How Non-Violent Offenders Are Sentenced?

January 5th, 2018 by CLLB Law

How should Kentucky sentence low-level drug dealers, thieves and others found guilty of non-violent crimes? Should they be locked up, securely separated from the public (at least until they’re paroled or released) or should there be another, better, less expensive and effective way to hold these people accountable while making it less likely they’ll commit another crime after their sentences are over?

A report released in December by Kentucky’s Justice Reinvestment Workgroup makes 22 recommendations that might be the basis of new legislation which could help reduce the rising prison population. There are so many “hot button” issues involved that the report’s creators admit they have a hard time agreeing on all the findings, reports WDRB.

The report paints a grim picture for Kentucky residents and taxpayers if there is no justice reform.

  • Since 2010, 31 states have decreased prison rates while reducing crime rates.
  • Kentucky’s prison population has increased by 8% in the last five years, totaling more than 23,500 inmates by the end of 2016.
  • Kentucky had the tenth highest imprisonment rate in the country in 2015 and the fifth highest female imprisonment rate, at nearly twice the national average.
  • Kentucky spent $570.5 million dollars on state corrections in fiscal year 2017, up $65 million dollars from three years ago.
  • Taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on their investment. The rate of recidivism is high, with 41% of offenders returning to custody within two years of release in 2016.
  • Without solutions to these problems, the state’s prison population is expected to increase 19%, slightly more than 4,400 beds, by 2027, at an estimated cost of more than $600 million.

The most important suggestion by the group is to change Class D felony drug possession convictions to misdemeanors, requiring probation for first and second offenses, with a mandate for substance abuse treatment.

Proponents of changes say prison time without addiction services can result in someone’s being released and committing crimes in order to fund his or her active addiction and ending up back in jail. Supporters of the current system claim public safety and justice would be compromised by less severe sentences.

Other suggestions to lessen prison overcrowding include:

  • The release from custody of those awaiting trial for non-violent and non-sexual offenses, and,
  • Probation and parole reform, including a geriatric parole system for inmates older than sixty who have served 15% of their sentences, excluding inmates facing time for sexual or violent crimes.

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. Kentucky, and the U.S. as a whole, needs to understand mass incarceration is a waste of money and humanity. We need to do better when it comes to justice reform because staying the course, over the long term, is simply not an option.

Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law has faithfully served the people and communities of Indiana for several years in a variety of criminal defense cases and will help you create a strategy that gives you the chance for the best possible outcome. With offices in New Albany and attorneys who are licensed to serve the Kentuckiana area, we have the knowledge, experience and resources to help. To ask a question or set up a consultation, call our office at 812-725-8224.