In a speech yesterday to the American Bar Association, Attorney General Eric Holder proposed changes in the federal criminal justice system, including scaling back the use of harsh prison time for some drug-related offenses. A 2008 report found Kentucky had the fastest-growing prison population in the nation. The General Assembly responded by changing how some low-level drug offenders are punished.
The law emphasized substance abuse treatment over incarceration and allowed non-violent drug offenders with six months remaining on their sentence to leave prison under supervised release. Speaking on NPR's Here and Now, Kentucky Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown said the state's prison population has shrunk by more than two-thousand since the law went into effect in 2011.
"Our probation and parole numbers have gone up around 4,000." he said. "But it only costs about $8 a day to supervise someone on probation, where it costs $20,000 a year to keep them in prison."
Despite concerns by opponents of early release, Secretary Brown said Kentucky's crime rate has remained virtually flat and recidivism is down since the law was enacted.