To his lawyer, James Kidd is the "epitome" of the kind of person the Kentucky General Assembly does not want sitting in prison.
An injured Gulf War veteran with no prior felony record, Kidd was convicted of drug trafficking in a controlled substance in 2009 for selling a single pill and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
His sentence was probated on the condition that he leave Kentucky for five years, but when he returned to visit his ailing mother in 2012, a circuit judge in Lee County revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the 10 years, the maximum allowed by law.
To Public Advocate Ed Monahan, locking up offenders like Kidd is why Kentucky is wasting millions of dollars a year on corrections even as crime rates fall.
"We should not be imprisoning a wounded veteran for 10 years at an average year's cost of $21,906 … because he was technically in violation of his conditions of probation," Monahan said in an email.
On Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Kidd should have been sent to prison, or whether Circuit Judge Thomas Jones should have imposed lesser sanctions, such as electronic monitoring — as spelled out in the state's groundbreaking 2011 sentencing reform law designed to reduce incarceration and steer tax dollars into drug treatment.
Jewell and Monahan said the case also will be crucial in determining whether judges must heed House Bill 463, the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act, which requires that graduated sanctions be considered before an offender on probation is sent to prison.
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