Attorneys representing criminal prosecution and defense see recent passage of federal criminal justice reforms as beneficial in moving Kentucky policy makers to act on state reforms. As Stu Johnson of member station WEKU reports, it’s highly likely to be a topic during the upcoming general assembly session.
Almost a year ago, Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley predicted, without criminal justice reforms, state prisons could run out of space by this spring. Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn says the federal reform act stresses intervening earlier to try and reduce repeat offenses.
“I would love to prosecute everybody one time. One time. But, that’s not what we have right now," Red Corn says. Red Corn says 20% of people with new cases in her office already have an open case. In addition to more drug treatment upfront, she says efforts are needed to help criminals reconsider before committing the next crime. State Public Advocate Damon Preston says reducing sentences for certain offenders is needed, so people don’t spend their senior years in prison. Plus he says more dollars would then be available to focus on violent crime. “By addressing the needs of non-violent offenders in a more efficient way, we then can spend money more directly to address violent crime when it comes up," Preston says. Preston says drug treatment, within the community, is preferable over tackling the issue once a person is in prison. And the defense attorney says passage of the federal criminal justice reforms should help Kentucky lawmakers feel more comfortable that state action wouldn’t pose a political risk.