Public Safety in Kentucky
- January 14, 2013
Over the past decade, Kentucky has had one of the fastest growing prison populations in the nation. Despite a decline during the past three years, the Commonwealth’s inmate population is 45 percent larger than it was at the start of the decade, compared with a 13 percent growth for the U.S. state prison system as a whole. As a result of this growth, the Commonwealth’s spending on corrections has also increased. In FY 1990, general fund corrections spending in Kentucky totaled $140 million. In FY 2010, that amount was $440 million, an increase of 214 percent. Yet, the state’s recidivism rate is still high and remains above the levels from the late 1990s.
In 2010, to seek new ways to protect public safety while controlling the growth of prison costs, the legislature established a bipartisan, inter-branch Task Force. The Task Force conducted an extensive review of state data and issued recommendations from the Public Safety Performance Project and its partners.
In February of 2011, The Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act was introduced to implement this broad series of reforms, passing the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 96 to 1 before being signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear. Overall, the new law ensures there is more prison space for violent and career criminals while helping to stop the revolving door for lower-risk, non-violent offenders. The Legislative Research Commission’s fiscal note estimates the reforms will bring gross savings of $422 million over 10 years. A portion of these savings will be reinvested in efforts to reduce recidivism, including strengthening probation and parole and programs for substance abusing offenders.