Justice reform council to tackle state’s high incarceration rates announced by Gov. Matt Bevin

Gov. Matt Bevin held a press conference Tuesday to announce the formation of a Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council to study all aspects of Kentucky’s criminal justice system and recommend changes to the 2017 General Assembly.

The new council consists of 23 members, including Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson, and will be tasked with studying data-driven evidence over the next six months to address the state’s high incarceration rates and other issues within Kentucky’s criminal justice system.

At the press conference Tuesday, Gov. Bevin said he hopes the group will come up with workable solutions for justice issues facing the state and noted he’ll not support anything that would diminish public safety. Bevin added he believes Kentucky can be “smarter and better” about how it applies justice.

Justice Cabinet Secretary John Tilley, who will chair the new panel, said the system is clearly broken and that in this process, public safety will be the number one priority.

Also speaking at the press conference were two men who have felonies on their records and have found it hard to live productive lives and find employment after paying for their mistakes. Both men praised the creation of the council and said they hope solutions can be found to help all Kentuckians.

The first meeting of the new justice reform panel took place Tuesday after the press conference and both Bevin and Tilley stated that there will be an “aggressive” meeting schedule in order to find and recommend solutions before the end of the year.

For several years, the Kentucky Chamber has advocated for policies that control the cost of incarceration in Kentucky as described in our Leaky Bucket report.  The Chamber has supported past efforts to reform Kentucky’s Penal Code and supports continued efforts to improve the system.

Video of remarks made at the press conference Tuesday can be found below:

The 23 members of the panel are as follows:

• Chairman – Secretary John Tilley, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
• Senator Whitney Westerfield, Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee
• Representative Darryl Owens, Chair of House Judiciary Committee
• Secretary Derrick Ramsey, Labor Cabinet
• Senator John Schickel, Senate District 11 (Boone County)
• Senator Morgan McGarvey, Senate District 19 (Jefferson County)
• Representative Denny Butler, House District 39 (Jefferson County)
• Representative Chris Harris, House District 93 (Martin and Pike Counties)
• Justice Daniel J. Venters, Kentucky Supreme Court
• Dr. Allen Brenzel, Department of Behavioral Health, Cabinet for Health and Family Services
• Judge David Tapp, Pulaski Circuit Court
• Judge Executive Tommy Turner, Larue County
• Amy Milliken, Warren County Attorney
• Courtney Baxter, Commonwealth Attorney (Oldham, Henry and Trimble Counties)
• Commissioner Rick Sanders, Kentucky State Police
• Damon Preston, Department of Public Advocacy
• Russell Coleman, Kentucky Smart on Crime
• Tom Jensen, former state senator and retired circuit court judge
• Anthony Smith, Executive Director of Cities United
• Jason Woosley, Grayson County Jailer
• Pastor Bob Russell, former senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church
• Bishop William Medley, Diocese of Owensboro
• Dave Adkisson, President and CEO, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

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Jacqueline Pitts
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