Report: Kentucky Incarceration Rates Worst In Region

Dec 11, 2019

A report published last week found that Kentucky’s incarceration rates are the worst in its region, topping Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. The report also found that Kentucky’s ranking is among the worst in the nation, and one expert said it is a sign the state is moving in the wrong direction.

The report, released by the New York-based nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice, used the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and state agencies. It used that data to compare states’ incarceration trends by the size of their jail and prison populations, the rates of jail and prison admission, and the rates of pretrial incarceration.



Tennessee's incarceration rate is on the rise — defying a nationwide trend. A new task force appointed by Gov. Bill Lee hopes to change that.

But for now, the group's focus is narrow: reducing the number of felons who end up back behind bars after they're released.

The Criminal Justice Investment Task Force says new data revealed at its first meeting will inform policy proposals. And the numbers were striking.



During the first televised debate of this year’s race for governor, Gov. Matt Bevin claimed that the state hasn’t expanded its prison population under his watch.

“We have expanded our prison population not one lick, I’ve made clear I’m not building more prisons,” Bevin said last week. “And the rapid increase that you ask about…happened under the previous governor and the governors before that. It has leveled off in recent years.”

Bevin is right that the majority of Kentucky’s prison population boom took place under previous governors. Historical data shows that back in 1978 under Democratic Gov. Julian Carroll, Kentucky’s prison population was 3,390. By 2007 at the end of Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration, that number had ballooned to 22,457.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Barren County is partnering with a local industry to train jail inmates for life outside the fence.

Johnson Controls is establishing a training program for inmates to become certified HVAC technicians. The company and inmates will work to reduce energy costs in county-owned facilities.

Kentucky Labor Secretary and former Barren County Judge-Executive David Dickerson says the results will be two-fold.


The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court says there’s a growing movement across the nation to reform the pre-trial justice system. 

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.

“We don’t need to lose sight of the number one, bedrock principle and that is the presumption of innocence operates in every case, so that presumption does not need to be lost," Minton told WKU Public Radio.


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.”