Starting in 2009 under Governor Beshear’s leadership, Kentucky had the highest incarceration rate in the nation. Kentucky’s corrections budget increased from $30 million in 1980 to nearly $470 million in 2010, and its prison population rose along with it. As of 2020, Kentucky has the 8th highest incarceration rate among states.
Since 2011, Kentucky has made changes to its prison policies, and in 2017 Governor Matt Bevin (R) announced the creation of a bipartisan Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council to carefully study the criminal justice system and suggest actionable policy solutions for improvement.
Recent prison reform legislation includes:
These measures were implemented to reduce the overcrowded prison population, promote the rehabilitation of low-level, non-violent offenders, aid with the reintegration of ex-offenders, and provide living necessities to and improve the living conditions for incarcerated women. Though the 2011 bill was a good effort to divert low-level drug offenders from prison and lower recidivism rates, the incarceration rate has spiked because of the rise in low-level offenses.
Kentucky has passed many important reforms that will improve public safety, provide opportunities for the offenders to re-enter society, and save taxpayers money; however, there is still work to be done to reform its criminal justice system.
Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.