Kentucky looks to curb overpopulation of jails and prisons with non-violent offenders

02/20/2018 01:32 PM

FRANKFORT – With Kentucky’s incarceration rate surging as the nation’s incarceration rate declined for the third consecutive year, Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley says the time to act is now to pass meaningful criminal justice reform in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Tilley, Gov. Matt Bevin, legislators and criminal justice policy advocates spoke at a press conference in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to discuss Kentucky’s problem as well as the plan for action.

Tilley said one of Kentucky’s biggest issues is a tremendous churn of low-level, non-violent offenders in the prison system driven by drug addiction, which in turn, has affected all of the family members of the addicts.

“Sadly, we now have the second highest rate of female per capita incarcerations, and we have more children in this state, in the commonwealth, who have had, or have an incarcerated parent, than any other state in the country,” Tilley said. “Nearly 33,000 children are impacted in this state.”

Gov. Matt Bevin warned that the high number of incarcerations in Kentucky leads to so much money going to the prison system instead of using those dollars in other, more desirable areas.

“We are spending $600 million and rising into our criminal justice system,” Bevin said. “Think about everything that’s being cut right now in this budget session of necessity, because we have to balance the budget. “That’s money that could be spent somewhere else.”

To combat the growing number of Kentucky incarcerations, Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, is filing a bill today to address the overcrowding on jails and providing more effective treatment for low-level non-violent felony offenders, many who are women.

“Last month, the Bureau of Justice statistics announced that Kentucky now has the second highest female incarceration rate in the country,” Moser said. “Unless we act now to change the course of this appalling trend, we will soon have the highest female incarceration rate in the country. I’m sponsoring this legislation because I have reason to believe that women in Kentucky are not worse than women in other states.”

Nemes says the legislation has three main components.

“This bill is victim centered,” Nemes said. “This bill would increase the likelihood that people who have already been victimized get what they deserve by way of retribution. This is also a law and order and a public safety bill. Most importantly, this is about family. It’s about your family and it’s about my family.”

Moser emphasized the goal of protecting and keeping families of those who are addicted together.

“We deserve fathers who are sober, stable and employed,” Moser said. “We deserve mothers who are needed to raise their families. We need children who don’t grow up parentless and trapped in a cycle of inter-generational criminality and institutionalization.”

In addition, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, is sponsoring Senate Bill 133 this session which promotes adequate and additional care for inmates who are pregnant.

Under the legislation, pregnant inmates would have access to adequate nutrition, feminine hygiene products, and an appropriate number of undergarments for female inmates, and require that pregnant inmates be restrained solely with handcuffs in front of the body unless further restraint is required to protect herself or others.


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