Criminal Justice Reform + Education Catchup
Criminal Justice Reform
- Why do we need criminal justice reform?
- As of November 2016, Kentucky had over 23,871 of its citizens imprisoned, up seven-fold since the early 1970s, when we incarcerated fewer than 3,000 persons. But, the crime rate has remained the same.
- Defendants are sitting in jail on minor offenses with high bonds and receiving no bail credit
- Overcrowded jails — sleeping on floors, housed in buildings that violate fire code
- Back in 2011, HB 463 was signed into law with the promise of significantly reducing the level of incarceration.
- Hasn’t really done that
- Courts (judges and prosecutors) reluctant to enforce provisions of it
- Bail credit
- Deferred prosecution
- After HB 463 was passed, more inmates that were serving state sentences were serving them in county jails, which are insanely overcrowded and have little to no programming. Because they are serving prison sentences in the county jail, they aren’t receiving drug/alcohol treatment or any kind of re-entry preparation. They’re also sleeping on floors and being housed in buildings that violate fire code.
- Fast forward to the summer of 2016, Matt Bevin the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council, a 23-member bi-partisan panel that would seek advice and study evidence regarding criminal justice reform
- Includes ministers, prosecutors, DPA’s Deputy Advocate Damon Preston, Senator Whitney Westerfield, Rep. Darryl Owens (sponsored felony expungement bill), Senator Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, and Justice Venters of the Kentucky Supreme Court
- Who’s missing? The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- But even still, people who have advocated for criminal justice reform was hopeful. There was talk of several issues that would be addressed:
- Reclassifying some felonies as misdemeanors
- Raising dollar amounts on felony thefts and child support
- Alternative sentencing options for nonviolent offenders
- Reforming the whole penal code
- Sentencing reform
- Particularly mandatory minimums for PFOs
- Persistent felony offender: enhanced punishment for people with a prior felony
- Can double the prison sentence
- SB 120
- So what CJPAC has come up with is SB 120. It is sponsored by Senator Whitney Westerfield, and is supposed to reduce recidivism by creating options for rehabilitation
- What SB 120 will do:
- would prevent people from automatically getting disqualified from obtaining an occupational license because of a prior conviction
- a pilot program to require people on parole who struggle with substance abuse to attend therapy sessions and take other steps to overcome their addictions.
- Private companies would be able to set up factories in prison and inmates would be paid federal minimum wage, but earnings could be deducted for things like taxes and child support
- Creates compliance credits for people on parole
- Earning credit for good behavior, cuts some time off parole
- Allow jails to operate day reporting centers
- Funding would be tied to how successful they are at reducing recidivism
- Increases detention time for probation and parole violations
- Angel Initiative
- If someone comes to police department asking for help with addiction, can screen for placement in a treatment facility
- “The purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate and re-assimilate people, not simply to remove them,” said Gov. Matt Bevin.
- But we’re still removing them, and this bill does nothing to address bail, mandatory minimums, etc.
- Amy Hannah, who is the president of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers wrote a really great opinion piece for the Courier-Journal
- But this is not the criminal justice reform that people, especially defense attorneys, expected. I think the changes are positive but it fails to address major problems in the criminal justice system.
- It does nothing to fix problems now. It doesn’t do anything to reduce how many people are going to be incarcerated. It only helps them once they’re in prison. If it does what it is intended to do, hopefully we can expect a decline in incarceration rates LATER after people are released from prison.
- Also a juvenile justice bill proposed, that has been gutted
- Criminal responsiblity
- Discretionary Waiver
- To summarize: This bill is good, but is not what was expected, and does not go far enough.
- Senate Bill 1 — Education Reform
- We discussed SB1 a few weeks ago. It has now passed the Senate. It hasn’t been referred to a house committee yet, but it probably will be soon.
- KEA, the teacher’s union, said that they were “encouraged that Sen. Wilson has been very collaborative”.
- Bill ended up passing the Senate 35–0.
- Senator Bam Carney (R-Campbellsville) filed a new bill about charter schools.
- Two bills have already been filed about charters: one by Gerald Neal (D-Louisville) which is a ‘pilot’ program in Louisville and Lexington, and one by Phil Moffett (R-Louisville) which is a state-wide bill that allows mayors, school districts, public/non-public four year postsecondary education institutions, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and the State Board of Education to create charter schools
- Chairman Carney’s bill would create a state-wide program, but ONLY local school boards can review and approve public charter applications.
- Carney works for Taylor County schools.
- This bill seems like an attempt to compromise between the two positions. Being filed by a committee chair, it’s almost certain to get a hearing, but we are coming up against the clock.
- At the same time, charter schools have been an important part of the session and SOMETHING seems likely to get done.
- Senate Bill 153 — Funding for Post Secondary Education
- We haven’t talked much about PSE on the pod as of yet.
- In terms of funding, Kentucky is among the worst nationally in higher education. Only three states have continued to cut higher education over the past two years: Arkansas, Vermont, and Kentucky
- Kentucky will continue to cut funding for higher education by 4.5% over the next two years.
- In the meantime, Senator David Givens (R-Greensburg) has introduced Senate Bill 153, which would create a competitive environment for postsecondary education funding.
- Ashley Spalding of KCEP wrote several pieces about this bill this week.
- SB 153 creates separate competitive environments: one for Four-Year Universities, and another for the state’s system of community colleges.
- Ms. Spalding’s articles go more in depth in analyzing the actual framework, but there are two major points to make about this scheme:
- 1. There is no new money — when these schemes are introduced elsewhere, they are typically tied to an INCREASE in funding. Schools get the baseline they are used to, and if they do well in the framework, they get extra. With this framework, schools could get less than they were expecting already.
- 2. The framework is all about performance, while it does make adjustments for the preparation of the students who arrive at the school.
- Studies have shown that low income and minority students typically suffer under performance based funding schemes. Schools are incentivized to only admit students they know will perform well, and these schemes typically leave behind marginal students.
- SB 153 passed 12–1 out of the A&R committee.
WAR ON LOUISVILLE
- We talked a bit last week about the urban-rural divide in Kentucky and the United States last week. This week in the legislature, the House of Representatives passed HB 246, which overturns Louisville’s ban on the use of plastic bags to collect yard waste
- Today, the Senate moved a different “war on Louisville” bill out of committee: SB222, which is the Senate version of the House Bill we talked about last week.
- SB 222 is less aggressive than the House version: it doesn’t reduce term limits of mayor to two, and would allow Metro Council political caucuses to hire and fire their own staff (these people had previously been funded through political parties, I believe).
- Mayor Fischer and Councilman Bill Hollander made the trip to Frankfort to speak out on the bill. They + Sens. Morgan McGarvey and Denise Harper Angel wanted to slow the process down. Regardless, it passed out of committee 6–3–1.
- A very interesting pair of legislators filed a very interesting bill: Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Shivley) and Speaker Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) filed HB330, which would extend the TIF district around the Yum Center from 20 years to up to 45 years. In our Yum Center episode, we talked about the city making more money available both the state and UofL made commitments to improving the financial status of the arena.
- Matt Bevin paid his property tax, which was overdue.