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Fiscal report says Safer Kentucky Act would cost state more than $1 billion over next decade


A new report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says the proposed House Bill 5, also known as the Safer Kentucky Act, would cost the state more than $1 billion over the next ten years.

The report was made by analyzing data from the Department of Corrections showing how many people are currently serving a sentence for felonies named in the statute, alongside financial data from an older version of the bill’s Corrections Impact statement.

The goal of House Bill 5 is to cut down on crime by increasing penalties and the amount of incarceration time.

That includes expanding Kentucky’s violent offender statute, which requires a mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted of certain felonies.

Pam Thomas is a senior fellow at the Center and helped write the report. She says that expansion would be very costly for state and local governments.

“You think about the already overcrowded rural jails and all the Class D felons in Kentucky serving their time, but now they're there longer too,” Thomas said. “So you're already overcrowded, and now you’ve got all these people that are staying for even longer.”

Currently, those convicted under a Class C felony can receive five to ten years’ imprisonment. Those convicted with a Class D felony face one to five years’ imprisonment.

A mandatory minimum sentence would require those convicted to serve 85 percent of their jail time before being eligible for parole.

“There are a lot of people in those lower felonies, especially C and D felonies, that are probated instead of put in jail,” Thomas said. “But if the bill passes as it is, none of those people are going to qualify for probation anymore, So that means they're going to be in jail too.”

The bill passed the House last month and is currently up for discussion in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

The full report is available here.

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Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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