Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kentucky Criminal Justice Council September Report

The Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act, HB 463 (2011), requires that the Kentucky Criminal Justice Council report on the implementation of the Act's provisions within the various elements of the criminal justice system and make recommendations that will further advance that Act.  The Council met Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at the Justice Cabinet in Frankfort, KY. The following agencies made presentations at the meeting detailing the impact of HB 463 on their respective areas:

 *   Department of Corrections
 *   Department of Public Advocacy
 *   Administrative Office of the Courts
 *   Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
 *   Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association

Public Advocate Ed Monahan, who serves on the Council, presented recommendations and discussed the context of falling Kentucky crime rates. Monahan presented 10 Commonsense ways to reduce waste in Kentucky’s criminal justice system and reduce costs for counties and the state: Lasting and Unrealized Benefits of HB 463. The 10 ideas would produce substantial savings from

1.      Reclassifying minor misdemeanors to violations

2.      Creating "gross misdemeanor" classification for low level felonies

3.      Promoting employment/reducing recidivism by creating Class D felony expungement

4.      Reducing days in the county jail by creating "clear and convincing" standard for the pretrial release decision

5.      Modifying violent offender and PFO statutes

6.      Presuming parole for eligible low-risk offenders

7.      Providing alternative sentencing plans for flagrant non-support instead of imprisonment for felony

8.      Creating alternatives to incarceration

9.      Increase the felony theft limit from $500 to $2,000

10.  Reducing waste by limiting capital prosecutions

They are set out in detail at this link ,  Ed Monahan’s PP is found here. Monahan said, “Through the foresight of Kentucky leaders, HB 463 has brought significant savings while not adversely affecting public safety. This is what taxpayers want. However, more reforms are necessary to continue to safely reduce waste in the Kentucky criminal justice system and to fully achieve what taxpayers want. While the Kentucky crime rate declines, the Kentucky corrections population continues to be above projections at a significant and unnecessary cost to the state. There are sound measures to address the waste. They can be accomplished in 2015.”

A survey of defenders statewide on how HB 463 was being implemented had 80 responses from 29 defender offices, Pikeville, Covington, Shepherdsville, Hopkinsville, Paducah, Madisonville, Richmond, Prestonsburg, Maysville, Lexington, Glasgow, Morehead, Somerset, Burlington, LaGrange, Murray, Elizabethtown, Newport, Harlan, Stanton, Owensboro, Columbia, Frankfort, Louisville, Catlettsburg, Bowling Green, London, Louisville and Danville. The major findings were:

 1.  When it comes to reducing incarceration, the most effective solution is reducing sentences, when it can be done in a responsible way.  The reduction in sentences for drug possession is seen as the biggest success of HB 463 in achieving its goals.  All other potential solutions can be thwarted by the discretion available in different parts of the criminal justice system.

 2.  Two promising innovative ideas in HB 463, Deferred Prosecution and Bail Credit, are widely seen as failures, because of the ability of prosecutors and courts to decline to implement the ideas.  Deferred Prosecution is unavailable in large parts of the state with two-thirds of responses saying they worked with at least one prosecutor who does not allow Deferred Prosecution in any case.  More than half of respondents say that Bail Credit has either never been granted or has been extremely rare.  Less than 10% say that Bail Credit is regularly granted, as was intended by HB 463.

 3.  There is good news and bad news on pretrial release.  More than 70% responded that low risk defendants are being released on bond as intended.  Unfortunately, most did not agree that moderate risk defendants are being released in most cases, as anticipated by HB 463.  Also, by overwhelming numbers (95%), respondents said that defendants being released often have extra conditions now, including drug testing, Monitored Conditional Release, or similar programs.

 4.  Probation practices are promising.  Over 80% of public defenders surveyed said that first-time felony offenders are usually probated and almost 60% said that probation violators are generally not revoked at the first opportunity.