Criminal Justice Reform Bill Moving Forward
The Kentucky Senate will consider a lengthy criminal justice reform bill after a Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure without testimony and little debate.
The measure resulting from months of study focuses on ways to move more inmates into productive roles in society and save corrections dollars. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield said the legislation will improve public safety. “I think it will hold offenders accountable,” Westerfeld said. “I think it will reduce recidivism and reduce future crime.”
Several people who lost loved ones to murder attended the committee meeting. Kentuckians Voice for Crime Victims President Katherine Nichols is concerned about provisions allowing release for “good behavior.”
“Our level of comfort when they’re behind the bars automatically goes to anxiety when they’re released,” she said.
An amendment approved in committee tightens restrictions on which felony offenders would be eligible for work release programs.
Northern Kentucky Senator John Schickel, a former law enforcement officer, is apprehensive about early release provisions for inmates.
“If they are good, we’re going to watch them for even less time, so I just don’t think it’s really in step with what the public wants,” he said.
Grayson Senator Robin Webb also expressed reservations about a call for more private industry involvement in prisons.
“I’m a little hesitant to allow private companies to perhaps profit on the backs of a population that’s confined, even though I am for every opportunity that we have to get those individuals back into the workforce and back with a feeling of self-worth, ” Webb said.