Following successful reforms to its criminal justice system in 2011, Kentucky turned to its juvenile system with the goal of ensuring a better public safety return on its juvenile justice investment. The Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code was formed in 2012, to review the juvenile justice system and make recommendations for reforms. In 2013, the task force was extended and this group used data and research to develop policy recommendations. These recommendations shift lower-level juvenile offenders, to more effective, evidence-based, community programs. If passed, the policy changes are expected to save the state millions of dollars that may be reinvested into the needed community programs.
Prior to undertaking the juvenile effort, The Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act was introduced in 2011 in Kentucky to implement a broad series of criminal justice reforms, passing the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 96 to 1 before being signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear in 2011. Overall, the new law ensured more prison space for violent and career criminals while helping to stop the revolving door for lower-risk, non-violent offenders. The reforms are estimated to bring the state a gross savings of $422 million over 10 years. A portion of these savings will be reinvested in efforts to reduce recidivism, including strengthening probation and parole and programs for substance abusing offenders.