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July 10, 2008

Kentucky's prison economy leading to prisoner releases

This local article from Kentucky, headlined "Inmates freed early to save state money," documents my favorite modern sentencing mantra: "It's the prison economy, stupid."  Here are specifics from the article:

Kentucky has released nearly 900 inmates -- more than 200 of them originally serving time for murder, rape, burglary and assault -- since the end of May in an attempt to save the cash-strapped state $30 million over the next two years.  Those inmates were parole violators who were sent back to prison but received credit against their sentences for the time they were out on parole.

<p>Prosecutors are furious with the move, saying it rewards felons for bad behavior and will lead to more crime. Inmates "are magically being given hundreds, if not thousands, of days of jail credit back to them after they've already shown they can't conform their behavior to societal standards," said Chris Cohron, commonwealth's attorney for Warren County.

But state justice officials say the inmates do not pose a public safety risk and that steps must be taken to curb the rapid growth in the size and cost of the state's corrections system.  They say the released inmates had technical violations, such as not reporting to their parole officer or failing a drug test....

Kentucky's prison population has grown faster than the overall population, shooting from 3,000 inmates in 1973 to more than 22,000 today.  A study by the Pew Center says the state's inmate population grew faster than anywhere else in the nation last year.

The cost is going up too. Taxpayers spend $500 million a year to house inmates today, compared with $7 million in 1973. Even adjusting for inflation, the state spends roughly 14 times more to house inmates now than in 1973. 

Those costs are severe enough that legislators agreed to give inmates credit for their time while on parole, even if they violate the rules that let them out.  The General Assembly included the provisions in the budget bill passed in April as a way to save millions of dollars in the next two years....

The provisions in the budget bill are the first steps the state is taking to address the skyrocketing prison population and its costs to taxpayers....  The 2008 legislature set up its own commission to study the penal code and issue a report before July 2011.

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July 10, 2008 at 08:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Doug, your snark about how expensive it is to lock up criminals is curious. It totally ignores the costs of keeping these felons outside of prison (new crimes by released criminals, lessened deterrence). And it's funny how your snark doesn't extend to the pinhead who said that releasing 200 violent criminals won't impact public safety.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 10, 2008 9:09:31 AM

Strangely, Federalist you have REFUSED to endorse my proposals for target incarceration rates of 30-40%. Surely, you can’t be so anti-public safety as to reject my common sense approach to keeping the children safe.

Posted by: S.crotus | Jul 10, 2008 12:04:24 PM

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