Corrections reforms can save Kentucky needed cash, public advocate says

12/13/2015 04:22 PM

With a new governor in the Capitol and a 60-day budget session on the horizon most advocates are fine tuning their pitches for an increase in funding, but Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan is seeking reforms within the criminal justice system which could save the commonwealth cash.

Monahan has been making the rounds in an effort to push reforms which would ease the burden on public defenders, save much needed dollars, and, he says, reduce recidivism.

While you may not realize it from watching the news, Kentucky’s crime rates are falling, but the state continues to incarcerate above the national average — something that costs taxpayers more in the long run.

“The facts are nationally, and in Kentucky, the crime rate is declining,” Monahan said. “The number of people in our criminal justice system over the last six or eight years in Kentucky has decline by over 40,000. Yet, our incarceration rate continues to rise above the national rate of increase.”

Monahan is proposing a series of reforms, which he says can save cash and keep families safe.

Among the reforms he’s proposing include reclassifying low-level misdemeanors to violations, allowing jailers to provide “good-time” credit, reducing low level felonies to misdemeanors and others.

“This is what we know from data — if we arrest and incarcerate low-risk people for as few as two or three days — there is a high correlation between that and future criminal activity,” he said.

Nationally changes to the penal code are catching on from both the left and the right, Monahan says.

“There’s a national public safety coalition that has the ACLU and the Koch brothers in it — working for reform at the federal level that will make sure we’re safe, but use our money more effectively,” he said.

In Kentucky this issue also has strange bedfellows, as the Courier-Journal’s Kristina Goetz first reported, the Kentucky Smart on Crime coalition has formed which includes the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Conference, the Kentucky Council of Churches, the Bluegrass Institute, the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

As the 2016 General Assembly draws closer, Monahan said the reforms will likely be filed by Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, in a single piece of legislation. Yonts has carried some of the reforms in stand alone legislation during the 2015 legislative session.

To hear more about the reforms being considered watch the interview below.


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