What to Watch: In Prison State, airing online and on air starting April 29, FRONTLINE follows Kentucky’s attempts to reform its criminal justice program through those it impacts most.
In Latest Reform, Kentucky Softens Approach to Juvenile Offenders
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Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) today plans to sign into law a package of reforms to the state’s juvenile justice program on Friday, the latest step in Kentucky’s effort to overhaul its criminal justice system.The state is one of several nationwide that has begun to look at new approaches to criminal justice, after decades of spending millions on incarceration. While the motive is largely financial, the impact has begun to be felt, particularly in African-American communities, who are disproportionately represented among 2.2 million people currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails nationwide.
Kentucky has an incarceration problem. Although crime rates have remained low, the state prison population has far outpaced the national average, rising 45 percent in the decade ending in 2009, compared to 13 percent nationwide. Kentucky’s juvenile detention has followed a similar trend even as youth crime has declined.