In 2011, Kentucky passed HB 463, the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act, to reduce one of the nation’s fastest-growing prison populations. From 2000 to 2009, the Kentucky prison population had grown by 45 percent, compared to 13 percent for the U.S. state prison system overall.i From 1980 to 2009, the state’s prison population had grown 442% from 3,723 inmates to about 20,200 inmates.ii To pay for this increase, total state spending on corrections in 2009 reached $513 million, up from $117 million in 1989.iii
The first goal of HB 463 was to prioritize expensive prison space for the most serious offenders. The legislation did this, in part, by introducing graduated penalties that diverted minor drug offenders to probation and treatment, while reserving limited prison space for the high-level drug traffickers. Another goal of the legislation was to reduce recidivism of parolees and probationers by, among other things, expanding electronic monitoring, enhancing post-release supervision, incorporating graduated sanctions, and authorizing earned compliance credits for parolees. HB 463 also authorized two pilot programs based on the Hawaii’s HOPE model and the reinvestment of a portion of state savings at the county-level. The third goal of the legislation was to improve data collection and to rely on this data for performance-based incentive funding pilot projects. The complete reform package passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 96-1 in the House. It was signed into law by the Governor on March 3, 2011.
The legislation was the byproduct of a group of leaders from all three branches of government who partnered with the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project to develop strategies for reducing recidivism while holding offenders accountable and controlling corrections spending. Those announcing the effort included: Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President David L. Williams, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Chief Justice John Minton, Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen, and House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley.
i “Kentucky to Partner with the Pew Center on the States to Improve Public Safety, Contain Costs,” Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project, 11 Aug. 2010.
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