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Tilley Hopeful for Criminal Justice Reform, Even as Legislative Session Nears End


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 396is 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.

But the measure hasn’t been taken up by a House committee since it was introduced in late February.

One of the bill’s components would reduce felony drug possession to a misdemeanor.

Secretary Tilley says many other states have already adopted similar changes to their criminal justice systems.

“These are ideas that are tried and true. They’ve been tested in states like Texas, in Georgia, in South Carolina, and Utah. Some of the reddest states in the country have not only embraced these policies, but polices that go much further.”

Credit Kentucky LRC
Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley (right)

Tilley adds the number of Kentuckians with felony drug charges has severely damaged the state’s available work force, something being seen across the nation.

“One in three adults have a criminal record—almost 75 million Americans by some count have a criminal record that inhibits employment. We in Kentucky have high rates of that.”

Tilley says Governor Bevin has earmarked extra money for substance abuse treatment programs in the state, and had hoped passage of the criminal justice reform bill would help alleviate some of the budget burdens on Kentucky’s jails and prisons, as well as prison overcrowding.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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