Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act


Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 1st Meeting

of the 2010 Interim


<MeetMDY1> June 9, 2010


Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 1st meeting of the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act was held on<Day> Wednesday,<MeetMDY2> June 9, 2010, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Glasgow, Kentucky. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.


Present were:


Members:<Members> Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Secretary J. Michael Brown, Tom Handy, Chief Justice John D Minton, Jr., J. Guthrie True, and Hon. Tommy Turner.


Guests:  Richard Jerome, PEW Center for the States; and Peter Ozanne, Crime and Justice Institute


LRC Staff:  Norman Lawson, CSA; Jon Grate; Ray DeBolt; Joanna Decker; Kyle Moon; and Rebecca Crawley.


Chairman Tilley reviewed 2010 House Concurrent Resolution 250 which created the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act and discussed his vision for the work to be completed by November 1, 2010.  He told the members that Kentucky is seeking assistance from the PEW Center for the States Public Safety Performance Project and has submitted a letter requesting assistance signed by Governor Beshear, Chief Justice John Minton, Senate President David Williams, and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo. In support of these efforts, the 2010 Special Session of the General Assembly appropriated $200,000 to the PEW Public Safety Performance Project.


Chairman Jensen urged the members to examine the draft “Mission Statement” for the task force and to make suggestions for change.  Members of the task force then introduced themselves.


Richard Jerome, PEW Public Safety Performance Project, said his organization works with states to advance fiscally sound, data-driven sentencing and corrections policies that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs. The goal is to help states get a better return on their investment in corrections, while protecting public safety.  He reviewed national trends in state prison populations and incarceration rates and noted Kentucky has had the largest increase in prison population in the country. Absent any action to improve the situation, those numbers will continue to increase and the cost of incarceration will also rise due to health care costs and general cost increases.


Mr. Jerome described the PEW Center’s work with other states to hold offenders accountable, reduce prison costs, and improve public safety.  For example, Texas was prepared to build two new prisons to address a 17,000 prison bed shortage, and had plans to build six additional prisons at a cost of $1 billion.  With the assistance of the PEW Center, the Texas legislature voted to stop construction of the new prisons and used $250 million to fund alternatives to incarceration programs, parole reform, and similar programs which produced a lower crime rate, lowered recidivism, and enhanced public safety while saving the remainder of the projected $1 billion cost to be “reinvested” in other necessary state programs.


Mr. Jerome said the PEW Center worked with South Carolina to address its prison overcrowding problem and the South Carolina legislature just recently passed the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act (Senate Bill 1154), which implements sentencing reforms, improves parole release decision-making, strengthens supervision for offenders on probation and parole, and provides ongoing oversight of sentencing and corrections reform. SB 1154 reduces the need to build and operate new prison beds, saving the state up to $175 million in construction costs for building new prison space, and avoiding more than $66 million in operating costs during the next five years.  The bill provides for a sentencing commission, prison release mechanisms utilizing parole criteria, preparation of prisoners for reentry into society, alternatives to incarceration programs, and an intermediate sanctions program to reduce the number of technical parole violators returning to prison.


Mr. Jerome then discussed the proposal for Kentucky which will include collection and analysis of information, review and examination of the state’s handling of felony offenses, prison release mechanisms and alternatives to incarceration programs, including data collection, research and analysis of cost drivers, length of stay, and available alternatives, stakeholder engagement involving input from prosecutors, crime victims, judges, defense attorneys and public defenders, an examination of felony sentencing parameters, a review of parole mechanisms, development of programs to reduce prisoner recidivism, prisoner reentry programs, development of intensive programs for high risk offenders and reduced supervision for low risk offenders, and consensus building among law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the court system, the corrections system, the General Assembly, and the public.


Mr. Peter Ozanne of the Criminal Justice Institute described his organization’s assistance to the PEW Public Safety Performance Project in providing in-state research, resource development, and support.


Senator Jensen noted Kentucky has an aging inmate population with increasing health care needs and attendant health care costs, which impacts the overall cost of the state’s prison system.  Tom Handy, a former Commonwealth’s Attorney and current Director in the Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) program, reviewed his organization’s efforts to reduce drug problems in Kentucky through law enforcement efforts and operation of three drug treatment centers in Eastern Kentucky.  Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown observed the parole rate is a somewhat misleading statistic because many inmates who have been considered for parole cannot be released because they have not completed required educational, sex offender, or other programs which are limited due to lack of funding.


J. Guthrie True, a former Department of Public Advocacy attorney, observed that Kentucky has a broken system in which retaliatory guidelines offer cover for judges and parole board members who want to incarcerate large numbers of convicted persons.  He said Vermont and South Carolina have made changes which have resulted in reduced crime and recidivism and that crime victims have supported these programs. Larue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner observed that many felony offenders are incarcerated for as long as two years prior to trial and many Class D felons serve their entire sentence prior to trial.  He noted that counties bear the costs of all prisoner incarceration prior to trial and urged passage of a speedy trial act both for the benefit of pretrial detainees and decreased costs to counties.


The meeting adjourned at 1:45 p.m.