Bevin impanels 23-member council to review criminal justice policy ahead of 2017 session

06/21/2016 05:13 PM

FRANKFORT — As the prison population in Kentucky grows to 23,500 and recidivism rates sit at 43 percent, a new approach to criminal justice is being drafted.

Speaking to reporters, onlookers and members of the newly created Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council, Gov. Matt Bevin said he had been elected to fix problems in the state, and criminal justice will get his full attention.

Bevin tapped Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley to chair the 23-member panel, which will seek expert advice over the next six months in an effort to bring reforms to the General Assembly in 2017.

“I am a big believer that there should be consequences for decisions made,” Bevin said. “Penance should be paid when people make mistakes. They should be held to account. The law matters.

“That said, there are smarter and better ways we can go about the application of those laws.”

Bevin and the council have set an “aggressive” timeline of meetings for the working group. The first introductory meeting was held on Tuesday following a lunch with Bevin.

Tilley said there would be full and half-day meetings throughout the remainder of the year with bi-monthly meetings scheduled in the fall.

“The key to the effort will be to use the expertise of each of these thought leaders and public servants to break down into subgroups to work on their own time and on their own schedules, sometime from their homes and offices, to bring back solutions to these problems that we face,” Tilley said.

Members of the council include:
• Chairman John Tilley, Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
• Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
• Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
• Derrick Ramsey, Secretary of the Labor Cabinet
• Sen. John Schickel, R-Union
• Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville
• Rep. Denny Butler, R-Louisville
• Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills
• Dr. Allen Brenzel, Department of Behavioral Health, Cabinet for Health and Family Services
• Judge David A. Tapp, 28th Judicial Circuit Court, Division 1
• Judge-Executive Tommy Turner, LaRue County
• Amy Milliken, Warren County Attorney
• Courtney Baxter, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Oldham, Henry, Trimble counties
• Rick Sanders, Kentucky State Police Commissioner
• Damon Preston, Deputy Public Advocate, Department of Public Advocacy
• Russell Coleman, Spokesman for Kentucky Smart on Crime
• Tom Jensen, Attorney, retired Judge and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
• Anthony Smith, Executive Director of Cities United
• Jason Woosley, Grayson County Jailer
• Bob Russell, Retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church
• Bishop William Medley, Diocese of Owensboro
• Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
• Justice Daniel J. Venters, Supreme Court of Kentucky, 3rd District

Notably absent from the list is Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is one of two statewide elected Democrats and involved in several suits against Bevin at the moment.

Responding to the absence, Bevin said that there was no ill will towards Beshear, but he felt there was “absolute ample representation” on the council.

“The people who are on this committee were chosen intentionally for their qualifications, for their knowledge of this actual topic and for their ability to bring that knowledge and those qualifications to bear in a very bipartisan program,” Bevin said. “The partisanship should have nothing to do with this or anything else.”

Beshear responded to being left off the panel in a statement by wishing the “initiative the best.”

“As the state’s chief prosecutor, the Attorney General could have been a valuable member, but nevertheless hope it finds success,” Beshear said in a statement. “This office will continue our daily progress of better protecting children and seniors, seeking justice for victims of rape, and finding workable solutions to our drug epidemic.”

As the council begins their work, they will potentially be embarking on the first comprehensive look at the penal code since its inception in 1974.

Kentucky spent nearly half a billion dollars on corrections last year, according to a press release, and many speaking on Tuesday said they hope the state will focus on redemption in whatever solutions are presented.


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