Group to recommend more drug treatment and restructuring of felonies

12/17/2010 07:09 PM

The task force looking at the state’s penal code will recommend some changes to the corrections system in 2011 and look to 2012 to rework Kentucky’s sentencing guidelines, said Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown.

Brown, one of the seven members on the task force, said the group has found that the 30-year old system of having four levels of felonies — classes A, B, C and D — is outdated and no longer has clear sentencing guidelines.

“We’re finding that they necessarily don’t make the kinds of distinctions that we need in this modern era between crimes against persons, crimes against property. We have very much a mishmash of penalties that go in there,” he said on Friday’s Pure Politics. “I am very much in favor of even perhaps expanding it to an E and an F so we can make these distinctions.”

That would separate out drug crimes, property crimes and violent crimes into different levels that come with more distinct sentencing guidelines, he said. Such a complex effort would require more time to draft legislation and lay the political groundwork, meaning that will likely be done for the 2012 General Assembly, he said.

The task force is expected to unveil its recommendations in January.

Brown said the first round of recommendations for the 2011 General Assembly will include a focus on more drug treatment and programs to divert those arrested for drug-abuse offenses to alternative programs rather than sending them to state prisons.

With help from the Pew Center on the States and pledges by state leaders, Brown said he’s confident the recommendations the task force will put forth will result in changes.

“I am confident that we’re going to pass some legislation,” he said in the interview.

In the second part of the interview, Brown talked about what the task force learned from representatives from the Pew Center who have worked with other states in making their corrections system more equitable and efficient.

The Pew Center brought data that showed some programs, such as Scared Straight, aren’t effective, Brown said.

And Brown said he was relieved that a state audit of the $12 million contract with prison food company Aramark did not find more serious problems. The state audit found $36,000 in over charges out of the $12 million contract.

- Ryan Alessi

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