Kentucky’s Chief Justice says the massive overhaul of the criminal justice system is working. Bottom line, fewer people are being jailed, but public safety has not been compromised.
Chief Justice John Minton’s report to the Judiciary Committee comes a half year into a new law which made the most comprehensive changes in how Kentucky deals with criminals in the past 30 years.
In simple terms, the complex shift in public policy was designed to put fewer low risk offenders behind bars.
"It appears at this point that the state is getting a return on its investment,” Minton told lawmakers Friday. Since the law took effect in June arrests are down 15 percent while the release rate is up four percent.
"While there has not been a significant increase in the overall release rate, the data shows a substantial increase in non-financial release and release for low and moderate risk defendants,” Minton reported.
The shift in how the cases of many defendants are dealt with has created a sharp spike in the work loads of the state’s 267 pre trial officers. The court system is seeking an extra 14 million dollar a year to raise entry level salaries of court workers and hire an additional 25 pre trial officers.
The court system is operating on a 316 million dollar budget this year. An extra 62 million will be requested in the next fiscal year. Extra money is also sought for the judicial pension system and replacement of the court system’s out-dated technology system.
Minton says the system is “on life support” and if it fails the courts would be “at serious risk.”