KY tackles rising prison population with new legislation

Kentucky has the second highest rate of incarceration for women and ninth highest overall in the country per capita. (Source: Raycom News Network)
Kentucky has the second highest rate of incarceration for women and ninth highest overall in the country per capita. (Source: Raycom News Network)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky has the second highest rate of incarceration for women and ninth highest overall in the country per capita. And a new policy proposal looks to help reduce those numbers.

"This is the kind of headline you like to have when you're talking about economics, this is not the type of headline you want when you're talking about your prison population," Governor Matt Bevin said.

At its current rate, Kentucky's prison population is set to increase 19% over the next 10 years, costing taxpayers nearly $600 million in additional costs.

So what's the fix? Policy and law makers are starting with women.

One in four people in Kentucky's jails are pregnant or mothers, officials said during a press conference at the capitol on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 133 was just introduced to eliminate the shackling of mothers in labor. It also mandates basic health and hygiene and more oversight over minimum standards like nutrition.

Officials believe drugs are the reason many women and men are ending up behind bars.

Another bill is working to get Kentucky in line with states that don't carry such heavy penalties with some crimes involving drugs.

"States which have now treated drug possession as a misdemeanor rather than a felony," John Tilley, Secretary of kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet said. "Still punishable, still jail time available, but to get people into treatment is much easier and not creating a convicted felon. That's the vast majority of the growth is in low level drug offenders."

The companion bill to SB 133 was introduced on the house floor on Tuesday. Governor Bevin said he'd be happy to sign both.

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