Justice reform bill is threat to safety
Guest column Jenny Oldham and Shane Young Feb 25, 2018 Updated Feb 25, 2018
Amid all of the noise of this legislative session about pensions and the budget, there is an extremely important piece of legislation moving along with very little attention.
If passed, it will remove the ability of the criminal justice system in Kentucky to hold anyone accountable and it will devastate all of our communities.
HB 396 is being called “criminal justice reform.” Here are some of the provisions of this bill that we want the public to be aware of:
• It reduces the penalty for possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and all other Schedule I and II drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. Not just for the first offense. A repeat offense also would be a misdemeanor.
• Reduces penalties on many crimes including thefts by requiring that someone steal something valued at $2,000 or more in order to be charged with a felony.
• Reqiores all prosecutors in every case allow what is called “deferred prosecution” for drug offenses. This means actually withholding prosecution, conviction and penalty for these offenses, after downgrading them to a misdemeanor.
If a prosecutor denies a request by a defendant charged with one of a drug-related crimes to have prosecution deferred, the prosecutor must prove and make a record of “compelling reasons why a criminal conviction is necessary.”
• For those being supervised on probation who do not show up or respond to probation supervision, the probation officer must wait at least 30 days and must document at least four attempts to locate the person before reporting the violation.
Once reported for absconding from probation, the probation department would be required to still allow continued probation supervision instead of incarceration for the first violation in most cases and is encouraged to allow probation even after the second violation.
• Once it is determined someone can be returned to prison for violating probation, it is encouraged that the person be summoned rather than arrested.
• The parole board, without court approval, will be required to release all inmates in prison for conviction of a class C and D felony at their earliest eligibility date without a hearing.
• Those convicted of crimes who are on probation will be given credit toward their sentence for every month they are “substantially compliant” with their probation. If they violate probation and are incarcerated, their sentence already will be reduced before they ever walk in.
• Once an inmate reaches age 65 and has completed 15 percent of his/her sentence or (not and) if the inmate has a chronic medical condition, the inmate automatically will be released from prison unless he/she is sentenced to death or is determined a violent or sexual offender.
• Bail and release will be determined by a computerized risk assessment rather than a judge and even in cases of a felony and violent and sexual offenses, a large number of inmates will be required to be released immediately after the are arrested. A defendant who is released may refuse to participate in drug screening while released pending their court appearances.
If this law is passed it will tie the hands of law enforcement please call your legislators and tell no to this bill!!!