For more than a year, the Kentucky Chamber has highlighted corrections costs as one of the areas of state government needing significant reform. As represented in the Chamber’s Leaky Bucket Report, Kentucky has unusually high incarceration rates and costs, but a relatively low crime rate overall.
The Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substance Act, headed by the Pew Center on the States, has been working on a viable solution to this problem for the last year. Yesterday, they presented recommendations to the legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. The primary theme among the suggested changes was the expanded use of alternatives to incarceration (such as probation, parole, electronic monitoring and substance abuse treatment.) The money saved from incarcerating fewer inmates, they proposed, could then be used to fund programs designed to prevent fewer individuals from becoming repeat offenders.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen said Wednesday that Kentucky could reduce its prison population by 3,000 to 4,000 people and save at least $60 million during the next 10 years by adopting the proposed reforms.
Legislation is expected to be offered from both the House and the Senate in the first weeks of February, when the General Assembly reconvenes.
“This is an encouraging first step toward reducing the cost of our corrections system without jeopardizing public safety,” said Chamber President Dave Adkisson. “We commend the committee for moving these proposed reforms forward.”