criminal justice

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As Kentucky’s drug overdose and incarceration rates continue to surge, some are renewing the call for the state to reform its criminal justice system and increase opportunities for drug treatment.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley said the number of people in Kentucky’s prison system surpassed 25,000 for the first time this year.

“We’re constantly trying to keep the tourniquet applied because we’ve let it get this bad as a state,” Tilley said at a legislative hearing at Lake Barkley State Resort. “That’s the problem, there’s so much deferred maintenance, so much neglect of facilities throughout the state.”

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Death penalty supporters and opponents both say that Kentucky’s capital punishment system is too expensive, lengthy and in need of reform.

Kentucky has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2010, but state prosecutors still pursue capital punishment in more than 50 cases every year.

During a legislative hearing on Friday, Louisville Republican Rep. Jason Nemes said that the death penalty needs to be sought only in the most extreme circumstances.

Rhonda Miller

A Kentucky program to train shelter dogs so they have a chance to be adopted has reached a milestone.  Inmates at a Muhlenberg County prison have trained 1,000 canines in a project called 'Death Row Dogs.'

In a bright sunny room at Green River Correctional Complex, 12 dogs are sitting beside their trainers. It’s week 11 of a 12-week program called 'Death Row Dogs.'

Allen Hearld says the lab mix named Snookie is the sixth dog he’s trained.  


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Several inmates from the Simpson County Detention Center now have jobs at private companies under a new program called SCORE. 

Three men and two women are the first inmates taking part in the program called “Second Chance Offender Rehabilitation and Education” or SCORE.

Deputy Jailer Ashley Penn is program director for the jail. She said the inmates found their own jobs, went on interviews, got hired, and at the beginning of this month, began working at local companies.

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A study by a Campbellsville University professor finds Kentucky has a lack of standardized programs aimed at helping former inmates re-enter society.

 

The Kentucky Department of Corrections released more than 1,200 inmates in 2017. According to the report, two-thirds of those inmates will be rearrested within three years.

Dale Wilson is a professor at Campbellsville and author of the study. He said while there’s high participation in substance abuse programs, there’s a lack of programs that prepare inmates for getting a job once they’ve served their time.

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A bill that would broaden the definition of criminal gangs, give longer prison sentences to those labeled as gang members and increase penalties for gang recruiting is close to becoming law in Kentucky.

Supporters say the measure would discourage gang activity in the state, while opponents argue it would wrongly label some defendants as gang members and disproportionately affect African-American communities.

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Kentucky’s Justice Secretary says he’s not giving up on criminal justice reforms becoming a reality during this year’s legislative session.

But John Tilley’s comments come as a reform bill is stalled in a House committee.

House Bill 396 is the result of suggestions made by a committee appointed by Governor Bevin to find ways to lower Kentucky’s incarceration rate, and increase opportunities for addicts to receive substance abuse treatment.

Kentucky Official: State Prisons To Run Out Of Space By 2019

Jan 30, 2018
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Kentucky’s top public safety official says the state’s prisons will run out of space by May 2019, possibly forcing the early release of thousands of nonviolent inmates as the state continues to grapple with the effects of a nationwide opioid epidemic.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley told state lawmakers Tuesday the state’s prison population is expected to grow by more than 4,400 inmates over the next decade. His comments come as lawmakers are deciding how to spend taxpayer money over the next two years.

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During next year’s legislative session, lawmakers will consider adding a “crime victims’ bill of rights” to Kentucky’s constitution.

The measure would create several constitutional guarantees, including a requirement that courts notify victims or their families when an offender is released from custody.

Advocates have pushed for “Marsy’s Law” in recent legislative sessions but the efforts have failed amid concerns that the measure would add costs and give victims an upper hand against those accused of crimes in court proceedings.

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The majority whip of the state Senate says he wants to expand Kentucky’s felony expungement law to allow people convicted of selling small amounts of marijuana to apply to clear their record after 10 years.

Last year, lawmakers voted to allow people convicted of some nonviolent, nonsexual Class D felonies to apply to expunge their records if they stayed out of trouble for five years and paid a $500 fee.

But drug trafficking is not included among the list of crimes eligible for expungement.

Becca Schimmel

Sen. Rand Paul has once again filed a bill that would allow judges to have more discretion when imposing sentences on those convicted of federal crimes, though he says the bill will have an “uphill battle” gaining support in the White House.

“I think the key really is not the administration so much — although eventually they would weigh in on it,” Paul said during a conference call on Wednesday. “I think the key is in the Senate. This is one of the few things I think we really have good, broad bipartisan support for.”

The legislation would allow judges to impose sentences that are less severe than mandatory minimum sentences currently required by law.

Paul argues that the policy would help reduce the federal prison population and restore “proportionality, fairness, and rationality to federal sentencing.

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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for directing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes they can pursue.

The new guidelines are a departure from an Obama-era policy that eased prosecutions of people with non-violent drug offenses.

In 2013, then-Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors to avoid charging people with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences, which require judges to impose lengthier prison terms.

In a statement, Paul said the reprisal of the “tough on crime” policy isn’t a good idea.

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Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner Rodney Ballard has resigned after a little more than a year on the job.

A statement from Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn said Ballard resigned to “pursue a private sector venture.”

“We thank him for his service and will immediately begin our search for a permanent replacement,” Wynn said.

Deputy Commissioner Jim Erwin will oversee operations while the agency searches for a replacement, Wynn said.

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Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office has appealed a judge’s ruling that wiped decades-old convictions from a Kentuckian’s criminal record, arguing they aren’t eligible under the state’s new felony expungement law.

The case hinges on whether crimes committed over a series of days are considered to be part of the same “incident” and are thus all eligible for expungement.

The new law allows people to have certain class D felonies cleared if — after completing their sentences — they stay out of trouble for five years and pay a $500 fee.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has thrown his support behind a far-reaching criminal justice bill intended to keep those charged with crimes from reoffending after they’re released from prison.

“A job is one of the best ways for a person to not fall back into recidivism, a chance for them to be able to rebuild their lives” Bevin said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The bill is the product of a 23-member panel appointed by Bevin over the summer to recommend a “smarter, compassionate, evidence-based approach to criminal justice in Kentucky.”

Supporters said the legislation’s most significant component would allow those with felony records to seek professional licenses where they used to be automatically banned.

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