Trigg County Sheriff Pushes for Harsher Probation Laws

Jun 1, 2016

Trigg County Sheriff Ray Burnam
Credit Trigg County Sheriff's Office, via Twitter

A western Kentucky sheriff is starting a social media push to urge federal and state lawmakers to implement what amounts to a “2 strikes, you’re out” policy on those who violate their probation in the commonwealth.

Using the Trigg County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, Sheriff Ray Burnam calls on readers to contact legislators to express support for “Cameron’s Law", named for Kentucky State Police trooper Cameron Ponder, shot dead last year in the line of duty. Burnam says Ponder’s assailant was on probation at the time of the shooting and that a simple law is needed where people who violate their probation must then serve the full length of their imposed sentence.

“I think a lot of times, the courts have good intentions, but they have fatal consequences," Burnam said. "It also puts bullseyes on police officers’ backs. We go out here every day and do our jobs. We put lawbreakers in jail. We arrest them and the courts keep letting them out. The courts seem to be the good guys and the police officers the bad guys.”

“I think some of the critics might say there’s not enough jails, that we’re overpopulated," Burnam said. "Build more jails. There should be three hots and a cot for every felon. Everybody out here who wants to cause us harm, we should have a place for them.”

Kentucky state Rep. Gerald Watkins is on the House Judiciary Committee and has filed multiple bills that address repeat violent offenders. His most recent attempt would impose life sentences without the possibility of parole for people who have been convicted of three independent Class A or B felonies. Watkins says his bills failed to gain traction in the General Assembly because lawmakers don't want to entertain bills that send more people to overcrowded prisons. Watkins wanted to pair that bill with an additional piece of legislation that would help empty prisons of petty drug offenders, but said neither bill received a hearing. Watkins said he doesn't think Burnam's suggestion would stand much of a chance in Frankfort.

State Rep. Kenny Imes said he wants to meet with Burnam soon to discuss the issue. Imes says he’ll look at model laws from other states to determine if he should pre-file any bills for next year’s General Assembly.

To read Kentucky's current statute on persistent felony offender sentencing, click here.