9:43am

Fri September 27, 2013
The Commonwealth

Prison Reforms Still Concern Some Kentucky Prosecutors

Reforms to Kentucky’s criminal justice system still concern some prosecutors.  Lawmakers this week celebrated their success, saying the law reduced prison populations, cut corrections costs and enhanced drug treatment programs. While it’s a step in the right direction, Russell and Wayne County Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Leveridge has a problem with deferred prosecution.  Leverage says it puts some accused drug possession offenders back on the street, without any penalty.

Credit Thomas Musgrave / The News-Graphic

“That’s a concern because you’re putting people who have addiction problems back out without a safety net.  There’s nothing that provides for them to address those issues, if they cannot afford to do that themselves,” said Leveridge.

Leveridge stresses drug traffickers are still prosecuted with vigor.  He adds low-income and homeless Kentuckians may have a hard time arranging drug treatment.

Supporters of reforms say there’s been a drop in violent crimes and repeat offenders.  However, the former president of Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association says those released offenders can still pose a threat to the public….

“My thought is that anytime you have got people who would otherwise serve jail time, but are instead released back out into the public, then that does present a question of whether public safety is being served,” added Leveridge.

Leveridge says there are also some worries about cost shifting.  He says these practices may save money of prisons, but he says those expenses may be paid by the victims of crimes committed by freed felons.