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Kentucky Creates Council To Reform Criminal Justice System

Tagged under: News Kentucky Criminal Justice Politics
By Expeal on June 22, 2016.

A picture of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

After having led the movement towards expanding expungement options in Kentucky, Governor Matt Bevin is taking the next step, creating a bipartisan council to address issues with the criminal justice system.

The Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council (CJPAC) will have 23 members with the goal of creating a "smarter, stronger and fairer system of justice" for all of Kentucky's citizens. The 23 members come from a number of different backgrounds with various areas of expertise. As Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky put it, "The governor is trying to bring in all the voices – prosecutors, social scientists, local government to say 'what can we do?'"

The idea behind CJPAC is to conduct data-driven research to find out exactly how Kentucky can go about reducing the number of prisoners it houses, reducing the number of citizens who overdose on drugs and die, and reducing the number of families that are broken apart as a result of a member being incarcerated.

The plan is that over the next six months, a wide variety of information is going to be studied, and proposals will be submitted for recommended reforms to take place in 2017. As Gov. Bevin put it, "From the very beginning, America has been a land of second chances. Even so, many in our criminal justice system are not given a path forward to become productive members of society after they have served their time. I believe in the importance of supporting basic human dignity. When we hold individuals fully accountable for their actions while treating them with respect in the process, all of society benefits. I am excited today to announce the formation of the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council. Their purpose is to carefully study and then suggest actionable policy solution for improving our criminal justice system."

Gov. Bevin continued, pointing out that nearly $500 million – half a billion dollars – was spent on correction last year. Many of these funds were funneled towards incarcerating individuals for non-violent crimes. According to Gov. Bevin, CJPAC use of a data-driven policy towards proposing reforms will "cut re-offense rates, improve reentry, increase drug treatment and treat mental illness – all while maintain, and even bettering public safety."

A major part of the push behind this effort was to bring the "patchwork of statutes that now comprise much of the state's penal code" under control. The ramshackle way in which many of these laws were put together has resulted in increased cost and "diminishing returns in public safety".

Members of the Council include:

  • Chairman John Tilley, Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
  • Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
  • Derrick Ramsey, Secretary of the Labor Cabinet
  • Sen. John Schickel, R-Union
  • Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville
  • Rep. Denny Butler, R-Louisville
  • Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills
  • Dr. Allen Brenzel, Department of Behavioral Health, Cabinet for Health and Family Services
  • Judge David A. Tapp, 28th Judicial Circuit Court, Division 1
  • Judge-Executive Tommy Turner, LaRue County
  • Amy Milliken, Warren County Attorney
  • Courtney Baxter, Commonwealth's Attorney for Oldham, Henry, Trimble counties
  • Rick Sanders, Kentucky State Police Commissioner
  • Damon Preston, Deputy Public Advocate, Department of Public Advocacy
  • Russell Coleman, Spokesman for Kentucky Smart on Crime
  • Tom Jensen, Attorney, retired Judge and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Anthony Smith, Executive Director of Cities United
  • Jason Woosley, Grayson County Jailer
  • Bob Russell, Retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church
  • Bishop William Medley, Diocese of Owensboro
  • Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • Justice Daniel J. Venters, Supreme Court of Kentucky, 3rd District

Want to have your voice heard regarding the efforts of CJPAC? Contact Governor Bevin, your state legislator, as well as your local government officials.

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