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Criminal Justice Reform Efforts in the Kentucky General Assembly


Kentucky is one of many states facing overcrowded jails and surging costs for holding those inmates. State lawmakers are considering some minor efforts to reform the commonwealth’s criminal justice system.

One bill in the Kentucky General Assembly would make it easier to transfer state prisoners to jails that are at, or below, 150 percent capacity.


Ashley Spalding, a research director for the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said while the transfer bill could bring down overcrowding at different times, it doesn’t address the true causes of the problem.

“We have to understand that this measure would be modest,” she said. “But at the same time, if it could improve living conditions for some individuals in some jails, then that could be a step forward temporarily.” 

Spalding said it’s important to realize that a jail at 150 percent capacity is still very overcrowded.


Another bill in the legislature would provide automatic expungement for defendants in cases where there was an acquittal or dismissal with prejudice.


One measure that has come under criticism is a Senate Bill that would increase the per-person rate paid to local jails that house state inmates. The higher compensation rate would only apply to jails that provide additional programming and addiction treatment.


“But this would just benefit the jails that already offer the programs,” Spalding said. “And then at the same time, it could incentivize counties to expand their jails.”


Spalding said many jails don’t offer increased programs because they don’t have the necessary space or facilities.

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