State Rep. Gerald Watkins (D-Paducah) is looking to sponsor a bill that will change the penalties for violent and non-violent crimes under Kentucky law.
The Paducah democrat says he's currently in the pre-filing process of introducing legislation to revise Kentucky state law to re-classify attempted murder from a non-violent crime to a violent-crime. Violent crime offenders must serve a longer percentage of their sentence before being eligible for parole.
Watkins says he was motivated to sponsor the legislation after watching a local case unfold involving a man convicted of trying to shoot a McCracken County Sheriff deputy earlier this year.
"Because serious physical injury wasn't a result, this was classified as a non-violent offense which under Kentucky law means that this offender only has to serve 20% of his time before he's eligible for parole," said Watkins. "He attempts to murder a deputy sheriff and potentially he'll be out of prison in 23 months. Although this bill will apply to everybody, I just feel like law enforcement risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us and we, as a society, are not doing enough to protect them."
Those convicted of violent crimes are required to serve at least 85% of their sentence before being up for parole while non-violent offenders must serve at least 20%.
But Watkins also says the state prison system is clogged with non-violent offenders and wants to have more legislation to lessen sentences for non-violent offenders of crimes such as simple possession of marijuana.
"That would get about 14,000 people out of the 22,000 inmates in Kentucky prisons out," said Watkins. "These people don't need to be in prison, they need to be in treatment programs. And that would save $312 million a year minus whatever we spend on treatment for those who cannot afford it themselves. And then we would make room for the repeat violent offenders to get them off the street."
Watkins says he’s started the pre-filing process on the attempted murder bill and hopes to have something to submit this week to have on the legislative agenda for the start of the 2015 session.