Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Nearly 900 state inmates have been released from Kentucky prisons and jails since late May under a policy change on parole credit approved this year as part of the state budget.
And 887 other convicted felons have been released from parole supervision, according to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, as the state deals with seriously overcrowded prisons.
The change, little noticed by many when it was made, already is causing concern and criticism from people who say it is misguided and potentially dangerous. One prosecutor has challenged the rule, saying it is unconstitutional and setting up what could be a pitched legal battle.
A lawmaker who worked on the provision said it was necessary to save money at a time when state revenue has fallen and the prison population has swollen because of tougher laws and efforts to fight drugs.
”We had to be creative,“ said Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson.
The legislature approved several measures this year to reduce the cost of housing inmates, including quicker consideration of parole for some inmates, giving inmates more time off their sentences for earning degrees or completing certain drug- or alcohol-treatment programs, and shaving time off sentences for inmates with good behavior.
Felons who violate parole rules and have to go back to jail now get credit against their sentence for the time they were out on parole.
Consider this example: A man is sentenced to five years in prison for theft, wins parole after serving one year, is out on parole for a year, then commits a violation — such as taking drugs or failing to report to a parole officer — for which his parole is revoked.
Under the old rule, he would have four years left to serve on his original five-year sentence. Under the new rule, he would get credit for the year he was on parole, so he would have only three years left to serve. [Mark Godsey]