Having tackled the drug laws, task force to look at adding new class of felonies

03/07/2011 06:12 PM

Fresh off of congratulating each other for the passage of the most sweeping changes to Kentucky’s drug offenses and prison system since the ’70s, state leaders who designed the reforms will go back at it.

The task force made up of the state’s chief justice, legislative judiciary committee chairman, a prosecutor, defense attorney, county official and the secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet will begin meeting again to look at revamping other parts of Kentucky’s penal code.

For instance, they will debate how to create a new category of felonies to go with the classes A, B, C and D — in descending order of severity.

‘We think we need a fifth category … at least,” said J. Michael Brown, secretary of the justice cabinet. Brown said he will again take part in the seven-person task force, as will Chief Justice John D. Minton.

Brown also explained on Monday’s edition of Pure Politics how the changes to drug laws are supposed to save the state money on its increasingly costly prison system with its more than $440 million annual budget. And he also explained how the new laws will distinguish between drug trafficking and peddling:

To save money on the long haul, Kentucky will have to spend some money on the outset to bolster its ranks of probation and parole officers.

Increased supervision of parolees and people on probation is a hallmark of the legislation, as it is with successful programs in Hawaii and Texas. The idea is to keep as many people as possible from slipping back into the cycle of incarceration.

The General Assembly, as part of last year’s budget bill, approved the hiring of 40 additional officers this year.

The new law will mean the hiring of 60 more, according to the cabinet.

“We’re going to be able to have a ramp-up period of several months to get our staff and our infrastructure in place prior to when we have programs set up for these inmates, so when they come out, we’ll be ready for them,” Brown said.

- Ryan Alessi

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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