Criminal Justice

Kentucky To Examine Ways to Reform Their Criminal Justice System

Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky recently launched a bipartisan 23-member Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council to take a look at the state’s policies and make recommendations to the legislature in January. The governor acknowledges the problems the state faces: “We know that incarcerations have been on the rise, drug use and drug overdoses have been on the rise, recidivism has been on the rise,” Bevin said, adding that the new council will seek solutions by looking towards other states that have developed “smarter and better” approaches to criminal justice.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky currently houses more than 24,000 inmates in its state facilities and budgets more than $272 million for prisons, despite recent attempts to lower these numbers. Senator Whitney Westerfield, a Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the 2011 reforms were a step in the right direction, but “none of them took on the full task of looking at Kentucky’s criminal code, to make sure that it is doing what it’s supposed to do for the victims of crime, of the accused, for every person in the system.”

Governor Bevin planned the council to work collaboratively across parties, states and respective areas of expertise to find solutions for the complex issues that present challenges to the criminal justice system. A recruited council member and former FBI special agent, Russell Coleman, said, “as someone who has been privileged to serve in our law enforcement community, I was a natural skeptic of reform, but, when the data and experience of conservative governors in other states indicate that well-crafted reforms actually make our families safer, we can’t afford not to work together in achieving those successes in our commonwealth.”

Like Coleman, Bevin has also been consistent in his concern for public safety. “The greatness of America, the greatness of the Commonwealth [of Kentucky] is the fact that we are a nation of laws. These things matter. I want to make sure that’s very, very clear. But that said, there are smarter and better ways we can go about the application of those laws,” Bevin said.

The council is set to make recommendations for reform before the General Assembly returns in January.


In Depth: Criminal Justice

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