As Kentucky struggles with big budget issues including an expensive criminal justice system and the damaging effects of the opioid crisis, state Rep. Jason Nemes says the state must focus on prioritizing treatment over incarceration for those with addiction issues, increased penalties for drug traffickers, and better workforce training programs in prisons to help with reentry into Kentucky communities.
Nemes noted new laws that have been passed dealing with criminal justice reform including felony expungement and other efforts but added those bills only scratch the surface and there is much more work to be done.
The most important aspect to fixing the criminal justice system, Nemes says, is treating addicts like they are addicts and ensuring they receive treatment rather than just throwing them in jail. The Louisville legislator added this is not to say those individuals don’t need to be held accountable, but he stated he would like to see Kentucky put more effort into ensuring people reenter society as better mothers, fathers, and citizens.
Meanwhile, Nemes believes Kentucky must be even tougher on people who are trafficking drugs while also reevaluating all crimes the state has on the books and ensure the punishment fits the crime.
These things, coupled with adding workforce training programs into the prisons to teach necessary skills needed after incarceration, Nemes feels will improve the state’s criminal justice issues.
“This is good for individuals, no doubt about that, getting them back on their feet. It is good for our communities because they are going to come back into our communities. It is good for our economy because we are spending $600 million this year on our corrections department. But for me, most fundamentally, it is good for our families,” Nemes said.
As for the opioid crisis being seen in Kentucky and across the country, Nemes said opioid addiction is a symptom of the state not having enough jobs and economic development as well as home issues and other issues.
He noted many of the criminal justice issues and solutions are weaved together with the opioid crisis. As for solutions that could help in the short term, Nemes pointed to his legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes as he stated in states with medical marijuana, prescription rates for opioids goes down substantially.
As for what Rep. Nemes would like to see accomplished in the next legislative session, Nemes highlighted his medical marijuana bill, infrastructure investment legislation, and he would like to see lawmakers focus on economic development initiatives and take the next steps on tax reform.
Watch the interview segment with Rep. Nemes below:
Watch part one of the interview with Rep. Nemes on The Bottom Line here.