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Though this year's legislative session started off with a bang, few bills have made it to Gov. Steve Beshear's desk.
House Bill 463 is one of the few awaiting the governor's signature.
According to a Legislative Research Commission news release, House Bill 463, sponsored by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, is the result of a task force that examined the state's anti-crime efforts. The reform package is the first comprehensive examination of the state's criminal laws since 1974.
The bill seeks to reduce the number of repeat offenders and protect public safety by putting an emphasis on non-incarceration options that have been proven to work.
While violent crimes and selling drugs will continue to receive the severest of punishment (is probation severe?), the release states that punishment for drug possession will be reduced.
Possession of certain illegal drugs, a class D felony, will result in up to three years in prison, two years less than the current maximum sentence. Repeat offenses will also be classified as D felonies rather than the C felonies they are now.
The bill is expected to save taxpayers $147 million over the next decade. Initially, the savings were estimated at $422 million, but the decision was made to reinvest half of that amount in drug abuse and mental illness treatment. About $61 million will be used by probation and parole services who will oversee the "would-be inmates who will undergo community supervision or be fitted with GPS ankle monitors. Those who violate their probation or parole in minor ways could also face intermediate sanctions rather than mandatory return to prison," the release stated.
I take a hard line on crime. My philosophy is, if you do the crime, you do the time. I'm all for helping people overcome their addictions, but I believe these programs can be offered while these people are behind bars. And I don't think reducing their time in jail for repeat offenses is a good option.
So why are we doing this?
The state is broke. After years of incompetent state leaders spending money that we never had, we're forced to let criminals out of prison early. Way to go, guys.
While I agree that the state needs to cut costs in a big way, I believe this is the wrong way to go. What's the next step? I shudder to think.
Seems to me that instead of overhauling Kentucky's criminal laws, we need to overhaul Kentucky's government.