State to look at new criminal justice reform

Sec. John Tilley/file photo

Governor Matt Bevin, Justice Cabinet Secretary John Tilley and other state leaders unveiled proposed criminal justice reform policy Tuesday that would put an increased emphasis on addressing Kentucky’s opioid crisis through treatment instead of repeated incarceration.

Spending on corrections in Kentucky has increased by about $200 million in the last seven or eight years and that trend is expected to continue with no action. The Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council, chaired by Secretary Tilley, has worked for about two years forming recommendations.

Tilley, who formerly represented Christian and Trigg counties in the House, says their proposals would ultimately make Kentucky safer, in addition to giving new hope to those fighting addiction.

Some drug possession charges would be changed from felonies to misdemeanors, administrative parole standards would be changed and other thresholds of what constitutes a felony would be modernized under the proposed measures.

Tilley says Kentucky is in the top ten in the nation of per capita prison population and many of those incarcerated individuals are parents of minor children.

As Kentucky faces tough budget decisions and struggles with how to fund the pension systems, Tilley believes finding smart ways to cut millions of dollars in spending on corrections is a win-win for the entire Commonwealth.

At least some of the committee’s recommendations are part of legislation up for consideration in this year’s General Assembly session. Tilley isn’t sure all of their recommendations will make it through, but he’s optimistic new criminal justice reform in some form will get to the governor’s desk.

Senator Whitney Westerfield, who represents Christian, Todd and Logan counties and who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, also served on the Council.