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.


Creative Commons

A new program in Pulaski County is aiming to grow the local workforce while, at the same time, helping people who are incarcerated get a new start. It's called the Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Inmates Transforming Individuals, Community and Livelihoods or CRITICAL. 

In three-phases, the initiative teaches soft skills and technical training to inmates, who can also learn about and interview for job opportunities while in jail. Those who complete the program are also credited with 30 days of time served.

Creative Commons

Leading criminal justice officials and reform advocates in Kentucky are backing a new push to reform cash bail during the next legislative session.

Louisville’s Criminal Justice Commission, a coalition of law enforcement, attorneys, city officials and others who oversee criminal justice and public safety planning in the city, approved a proposal this month raised by the The Department of Public Advocacy and made bail reform part of its legislative platform for 2020. The proposal suggests using cash bail in fewer cases, raising the standard of proof judges use to evaluate defendants’ risk to the public and their likelihood to return to court, and speeding up defendants’ hearings and trials.



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.


Kentucky LRC

Overcrowding has become a major issue facing Kentucky's county jails.

The most recently available numbers from the Kentucky Department of Corrections show county detention centers collectively are nearly 5,000 inmates over capacity.

We spoke with Justice and Public Safety Cabinet John Tilley about the causes behind and ways to address this situation.

Courtesy of Casey Haynes

Around 40% of Kentucky state inmates released in 2016 went back to jail within a couple years of getting out.

Most of those individuals went back to jail for breaking their terms of release rather than through committing a new crime.

Bowling Green business owner Casey Haynes could have been in that number. Instead, he recieved a break from the court. Now, he's making the most of that chance.

Haynes comes from Mississippi and describes himself as always having a strong parental figure in his mother.

He said he got into trouble after originally going to trade school for business management.

"I didn't do too well as far as working in that field. I ended up drifting off and doing some other things I wasn't interested in, and that led to being around...the wrong crowd of people," Haynes said.

Sarah Perrine

Everyone experiences prison time differently. To Sarah Perrine, who received a ten year sentence for a host of drug-related charges, it ended up being a life changing event.

She has the words "forgive" and "forget" tattooed on her neck. The motto suits her.

She's reconnecting with her daughter. She has a job at a local fast food restaurant where she recently received a promotion. And she's no longer one of the nearly 2,300 women currently in Kentucky's state prison system.

Instead, she's now part of the Southern Kentucky Reentry Council to make coming home easier for others.

If you ask her, that's all because of one moment she had while she was in solitary confinement.

Perrine describes it as "13 cells on one walk and everybody was just yelling and screaming constantly."

Kevin Willis

When someone goes to jail, it's often difficult for them to move on from the criminal justice system.

At the Barren County Detention Center, a group is promising to help inmates break the cycle and succeed once they return to society.

In the second of our four-part series on reentry in our region, we meet four individuals in that jail who are preparing to move on.

Prison overcrowding has increasingly become part of the national conversation. Meanwhile, states are trying to do more to keep ex-offenders from going back to jail after completing their sentences.

Recidivism has several negative consequences, including state spending on housing inmates and the fact that potential members of the workforce are unavailable.

This is the first story in a four-part series of reports about efforts to combat the trend in our region.