2011 Kentucky Reforms Cut Recidivism, Costs

Broad Bill Enacts Evidence-Based Strategies

Problem: Kentucky had one of the fastest growing prison populations in the nation over the decade ending in 2009, rising by 45 percent, compared to 13 percent growth for all states.

Consequences: Corrections spending jumped 214 percent over the two decades ending in FY 2010, to $440 million. Meanwhile, recidivism rates remained above levels seen in the 1990s, despite slight improvement in recent years.

Drivers: Data showed an increase in overall arrests and court cases, as well as rising incarceration rates for technical parole violators. Analysis also showed offenders in Kentucky were far more likely to be sentenced to prison than the national average and an increase in the percentage of all admissions who were drug offenders.

Reforms: With technical assistance from the Pew Center on the States, the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act produced a set of reforms leading to the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act of 2011. Passed unanimously in the Senate and with just one dissenting vote in the House, the law concentrates expensive prison beds on serious offenders, reduces recidivism by strengthening probation and parole, and establishes mechanisms for measuring government progress over time.

Impact: The legislation is expected to enhance public safety and improve the performance of Kentucky's correctional system on multiple levels. The state estimates the reforms will save $422 million over 10 years, allowing increased investment in programs to reduce recidivism with residual funds available for state budget relief.

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