Costs of Kentucky’s growing prison population expected to rise without legislative action

Prision Cells at Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho

The costs to taxpayers for Kentucky’s growing prison population is expected to increase by $600 million in the next decade if no legislative action is taken to improve the justice system, according to projections by the CJPAC Justice Reinvestment Work Group.

The numbers, released Wednesday, show Kentucky’s inmate population is expected to increase by 19 percent over the next ten years, overwhelming jails and prisons.

Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley, who chairs the group, said the growth is unsustainable given Kentucky’s pension crisis and other budgetary needs.

“We’ve reached a critical point that demands fiscal prudence and stronger accountability for both offenders and government,” Secretary Tilley said. “The good news is we have an opportunity to lower costs and improve public safety if we enact common-sense legislation next year. It’s time to bring stability and efficacy to our justice system.”

Through an in-depth analysis of data from the Department of Corrections, the Work Group found that admissions to prison grew 32 percent in just five years, driven by low-level, nonviolent offenses. Sixty-five percent of admissions in 2016 were sentenced for drug and property offenses.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, an active participant of the Work Group, has been a strong advocate for criminal justice reform that improves the safety of the community, saves budgetary dollars, reduces recidivism and returns people to the workforce.

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