In an atmosphere where it seems difficult to get bipartisan support on many issues, state Rep. John Blanton is confident bail reform will see passage in 2019 with votes from both parties.
Blanton’s bill seeks to ensure the pre-trial justice system doesn’t disproportionately impact low-income Kentuckians who are not able to pay their bail for a low-level non-violent offense.
According to a report from the Pegasus Institute titled Reform Opportunities in Kentucky’s Bail System, there were 64,123 non-violent, non-sexual defendants detained in Kentucky in 2016 because they could not afford their bail, staying an average of 109 days.
When low-income citizens are detained and not able to post bail, it can also force them to lose their jobs because they must remain in jail. It is also a large cost to taxpayers as local governments lost $152 million last year because of Kentucky’s current bail system, according to the Pegasus Institute.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Blanton said he is sponsoring the bail reform legislation because changes to the system are long overdue and he believes it will not only improve public safety, but also provide a more fair and balanced system in the state.
He noted the support of many different groups from the Administrative Office of the Courts, judges, attorneys, the Kentucky Chamber, Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Jailer’s, and many others as well as conversations with legislators on both sides of the aisle which gives him confidence the legislation will pass during the 2019 session with bipartisan support.
As a former Kentucky State Police officer who specialized in drug enforcement and special investigations, Blanton said his experience in law enforcement gives him a unique perspective and approach to this type of issue.
On whether or not this could be seen as “soft on crime” to some, Blanton said it is important to remember what bail is all about and said this type of reform will be a positive change that will help the state’s criminal justice system.
“It will hopefully prevent people from reoffending…this will help people to keep their job, this will help with overcrowding,” Blanton said. “All we are seeking is that justice is done. And that’s what this bill does.”
Watch the full interview segment with Rep. Blanton on the issue in the video below: