incarceration

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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.”

WFPL

A recent study shows Kentucky is one of just eight states that is holding more people in local jails than in state prisons. The problem is largely driven by the number of people in the commonwealth who are held in local jails while serving prison sentences.

 

Kentucky’s level of incarceration continues to grow at an explosive rate at the same time the nationwide trend is declining. Some counties are now considering expanding or building new jails to deal with overcrowding.

3DaysCount

Kentucky’s joining a national effort to reduce the number of people held in jail during pretrial. In Kentucky, counties pay the cost of housing inmates who are awaiting trial.

Pretrial is defined as the period from a person’s first contact with law enforcement through the resolution of any resulting charges, usually through trial, plea or dismissal. The Administrative Office of the Courts manages the state’s judicial system and is joining the 3DaysCount initiative.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Kentucky’s Labor Secretary said the state has one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the nation. Derrick Ramsey said an estimated 200,000 people left the workforce after the 2008 recession and haven’t yet returned. But he said the recession isn’t the only reason the state’s labor force participation is so low.

“Further numbers that are worthy of conversation, the penal system,” he said. “We have 26,000 people that are incarcerated in our state today and that number keeps growing quicker and faster than one could even imagine.”

Kentucky Department of Corrections

Kentucky’s new Department of Corrections commissioner says one of his top priorities is reducing recidivism.

Jim Erwin said 34 of Kentucky’s jails and prisons are about 140 to 300 percent over capacity. Erwin said the opioid crisis is a major reason behind the overcrowding. He said the department is seeing an increase in people violating their parole for technical violations driven by drug use.  

 

“We are basically the largest substance abuse treatment provider in the state. The department of corrections is,” he told WKU Public Radio.

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Kentucky is taking part in a new research program aimed at reducing the recidivism rate of the state’s prison inmates. Kentucky is one of four states participating in the project.

The Safe Streets and Second Chances program will be funded by the Koch Industries network. The project will begin in June with 200 randomly chosen inmates in Kentucky prisons. The program’s advisory board chair Mark Holden said the idea is to begin the process of preparing an inmate for reentry as soon as they’re incarcerated.


flickr creative commons Virginia Department of Transportation

Inmates at the Daviess County Detention Center will be able to participate in a work program again, thanks to the renewal of a contract with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and increased staffing at the jail.

The Daviess County Detention Center had a contract with the state’s transportation cabinet last year but couldn’t implement the program due to staffing shortages. The Messenger-Inquirer reports inmates will work for eight hours a day and a maximum of 160 hours a month.

Bureau of Prisons

The Bureau of Prisons has issued a record of decision signaling that it is moving ahead with plans to build a federal prison on the site of a former strip mine in the hills of Letcher County, Kentucky. But local opponents of the prison say they’re not giving up and are considering a legal challenge to prevent the construction of a new prison.

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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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The two-year spending plan passed by the Kentucky House allocates $70 million to reopen three private prisons.

 

Daniel Cameron is a spokesperson for the criminal justice reform group Kentucky Smart On Crime. He said the money being spent to incarcerate people for low level drug offenses could be better spent elsewhere.

“For every dollar that’s eaten up by the corrections budget that’s another dollar that can’t be utilized to go after serious violent offenders,” he said.

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New data show that Kentucky’s incarceration rate is increasing, while the national rate continues to decline.

 

Figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show Kentucky has the ninth-highest incarceration rate in the nation. The commonwealth’s female incarceration rate is more than twice the national average, making it the second-highest in America.

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An upcoming fundraiser for the new Oldham County jail is drawing criticism from advocacy groups.

The event, “This Joint is Jumpin,’” invites the public to to spend a night in the new facility. For a contribution of at least $100 to participating nonprofits, donors will be given a tour of the facility, breakfast and dinner, snacks, a commemorative T-shirt, a souvenir mug shot, and “one fun-night in jail.”