Kentucky must have criminal justice reform, new justice cabinet secretary tells legislators

Prision Cells at Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho

New Justice Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble told lawmakers on Tuesday that Kentucky must have criminal justice reform as the state struggles with a growing prison population and limited resources.

Noble, who served on the Kentucky Supreme Court for ten years, said Kentucky is anticipating more growth in the corrections budget and will be spending more than $1.3 billion over four years—a large portion of the state’s budget.

Five goals for criminal justice reform laid out by Andy Beshear, Noble said, include the need to reduce the prison population, consolidate prison institutions, reduce recidivism, address racism and prejudice in the justice system, and provide treatment services as the state struggles with the opioid crisis.

In order to cut down on the prison population, Noble stated the state needs to look at ways to deal with Kentucky’s pretrial system and bail reform.

Noble highlighted the fact that many of Kentucky’s prisons are in very poor condition and stated Kentucky needs to focus on putting people in facilities that are in good shape rather than pouring money into prisons that are crumbling. She noted the governor wants to rent the Wheelwright facility to be state-run, stating it would not be a private prison because the state would just be renting from the owner.

She also stated Kentucky must have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to racism and added it is critical for the state to ensure access to meaningful treatment for drug issues and focus on treatment over incarceration as early intervention is the key to success.

The governor and members of the General Assembly have pointed to criminal justice reform as a priority for the 2020 session. Several bills have been filed including, expungement, probation, felony theft, and juvenile justice reform. Follow The Bottom Line for updates on this issue.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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