Gov.’s Criminal Justice Reform Commission Issues Preliminary Report

Nov. 25, 2008 – FRANKFORT — A panel of experts is giving Gov. Steve Beshear more than 50 ideas for cutting the state’s swollen prison and jail population.

One of the ideas could be controversial, such as reducing the charge for possession of less than an ounce of cocaine from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The Kentucky Criminal Justice Council debated the proposals Monday, rejected a few and agreed to hand Beshear its final report Dec. 1. Beshear will use the report as he drafts his criminal-justice legislative package for the 2009 General Assembly.

The council comprises police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, court officials, Justice Cabinet administrators and state lawmakers.

Their proposals include:

■ Reduce the criminal charge for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor.

■ Rewrite the law regarding drug trafficking within 1,000 yards of a school — a serious crime — so that it applies only to dealers trying to sell drugs to students, not to dealers with adult customers who happen to be in the general vicinity of a campus.

■ Establish different levels of drug trafficking based on the quantity sold, with lesser penalties for low-level sales.

■ Expand the use of home incarceration and electronic monitoring.

■ Provide substance-abuse, education and job-training programs in all county jails that hold state inmates, and create re-entry programs that ease newly released felons back into society from jail or prison.

■ Set a statute of limitations on less-serious felonies so they cannot be prosecuted after five to 10 years. Kentucky is one of a few states with no statute of limitations on felonies.

■ Raise the felony theft level to $500 from $300, where it has been for many years.

■ Offer more medical and geriatric parole to ailing and older inmates, who are expensive to care for and no longer pose a threat to public safety.

■ Reduce various aspects of the persistent-felony offender statute, which requires longer sentences for criminals repeatedly convicted of felonies


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