Rep. Tilley says task force will take a larger look at penal code, continues push to new felony classes

07/12/2011 03:03 PM

A panel that helped create a landmark drug crime reform bill earlier this year is ready to open up the rest of the penal code to enact more reforms, state Rep. John Tilley, a co-chair of that panel, said.

Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, is a co-chair with Republican state Sen. Tom Jensen, of London, for the Penal Code Task Force, a group made up of executive, legislative and judicial leaders.

With help from the Pew Center for the States, the group tackled Kentucky’s rising prison population by taking a look at reforms to drug laws and focusing on more education and rehabilitation for drug offenders.

That law, House Bill 463, is currently being implemented.

But with that implementation just underway, the group is pushing forward with more reform proposals. It’s already sent out a survey to prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys asking them to set the tone for the next round of reforms.

“We’re asking them to point out inconsistencies with the law,” Tilley told Pure Politics. “We’re asking them to tell us what further revisions need to be made. I think a great misnomer is that we really worked on the penal code, we didn’t focus on the penal code, we made few changes per se.”

Tilley briefly brought up the idea of creating new felony classes after the task force first started last year. But that reform didn’t make it into the 2011 bill.

Tilley said he hasn’t given up that battle, telling Pure Politics that Kentucky needs to reclassify some felonies, an idea that has support from prosecutors, judges, public defenders and private defense lawyers.

The talk is of creating “E” and “F” classifications for certain felonies, like theft, as well as eliminating some felonies to help rehabilitate offenders.

As for another reform bill coming up for the 2012 legislative session, Tilley said there’s a good chance of that, which prosecutors already creating lists of crimes that could be reclassified as new “E” or “F” felonies.

-Written by Kenny Colston, interview by Ryan Alessi.


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