Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rep. Tilley Op-Ed about HB 463 - Lexington Herald-Leader

Ky.'s prison reform a model for nation with lower costs, recidivism

Nearly two months ago, when the U.S. attorney general announced major reforms for the Justice Department, those of us who oversee Kentucky's criminal justice system couldn't help but feel a strong sense of déjà vu.

That's because the problems noted in the federal system — skyrocketing prison populations coupled with limited options for drug treatment and alternative sentencing programs — are remarkably similar to the problems Kentucky faced several years ago, and the proposed solutions are largely modeled after the landmark criminal justice reforms that have governed our state for the last two years.

The groundwork for this was laid in 2010, when leaders of all three branches of state government came together to see how we could begin reversing the 45 percent growth Kentucky's prison system witnessed during the previous decade, a rate nearly four times the national average. 

Staying the course, especially at a time of budget cuts and a crime rate that was not improving, was both unsustainable and unwise.

A bipartisan, inter-branch task force I was proud to co-chair sought out solutions from anyone who had a stake in the outcome, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims' advocates and local officials. Helping guide us was the Pew Center on the States, a non-profit organization that has extensive knowledge in this area.

The result of this work was House Bill 463, which became law in 2011 with only one dissenting vote. Since then, its successes have started to mount.

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