House could amend bill aimed at pregnant inmates with criminal justice reform bill, lawmaker says

03/14/2018 01:12 PM

FRANKFORT — Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are discussing amending a bill aimed at improving conditions for pregnant inmates, and keeping that language, but adding a framework designed to promote better criminal justice outcomes — and save money.

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who is the primary co-sponsor of the criminal justice reform bill — House Bill 396 said there is talk among House members to amend Senate Bill 133, which has already cleared the full Senate, in an effort to pass criminal justice reforms this session.

“It’s a good bill,” Nemes said of Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, legislation aimed at helping pregnant women. He said the intent was not to harm her bill, rather it would add additional reforms which would quickly be taken up in the House and then in the upper chamber before the session ends on April 13.

The criminal justice reform effort would essentially move from an incarceration model to a treatment model for many low-level non-violent felony offenders, Nemes said.

“It’s better for our finances, we have a number of problems in Kentucky with cost — we’re now getting ready to get back into the private prison industry — we’re going to open up three private prisons in the next two years — that is very bad policy,” he said, adding there’s not enough bed space because the state is over-incarceration addicts.

Allowing more judicial discretion and turning some low level felonies into misdemeanors could have a large fiscal impact on the budget of counties. A corrections impact statement which shows county jails would incur additional costs — something that Nemes said has been addressed in the legislation.

“We have a cost-sharing plan in the bill, that would have the state government cover a lot of the new cost that would be incurred by county government,” he said.

“For a weird reason misdemeanors and people waiting for final adjudication – final conviction or plea agreement are covered by the county, felonies after conviction are covered by the state — so that perverts a lot of good policy things we can do, so we want to cover the new cost from the counties.”

Nemes said some have said the state needs to give more under the plan, which he said is being worked on behind the scenes.

If the bill works, Nemes said it would substantially reduce cost for state and local governments over the mid and long term.


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