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Chief Justice: Conversation on Bail Reform Just Getting Started

Lisa Autry

Kentucky’s chief justice of the Supreme Court says he expects bail reform to come up again in the state legislature. 

John Minton Jr. says the current method of setting bail disproportionately affects low-income defendants who aren’t able to pay for release after being charged with low-level, non-violent offenses. 

Minton addressed members of the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club on Wednesday.

Despite legislation failing to pass the General Assembly this year, he said going to a cashless bail system has bi-partisan support.

“Everyone in Kentucky from the ACLU to the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Governor Bevin, Secretary John Tilley from the Justice Cabinet, all of these folks have been talking a lot about bail reform and I’m predicting you’re going to hear a lot more about that," stated Minton.

Chief Justice Minton says Kentucky’s current bail system has negative financial and societal affects and the state should consider alternatives to posting bail.  While there are public safety concerns, he said research suggests that inmates given pre-trial release don’t typically re-offend or skip court dates.  Minton added Kentucky would need a strong system for supervising those offenders.

A report from the conservative-leaning Pegasus Institute found there were more than 64,000 non-violent suspects detained in Kentucky in 2016 because they couldn’t afford bail. 

Their average length of stay was 109 days.  As little as three days in jail is long enough for some to lose their jobs, which can have a multiplying effect on their lives.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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