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Much-discussed penal code reform bill still a no-show

February 08, 2011 | | Comments 0
State Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London

State Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London

By John Cheves — jcheves@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Ten days into a 30-day law-making session, legislators still aren’t ready to file a bill to address prison and jail crowding in Kentucky, despite a year’s work by a high-powered committee and consultants paid $200,000.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen, R-London, on Tuesday said he hopes a bill can be ready to file in the House on Thursday that contains many recommendations of the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act.

“Staff is working on it pretty much day and night, and we’ll want to see the final version before anything is filed,” said Jensen, who was a member of the task force. “Obviously, we don’t have plenty of time. I hope we’ll be able to accomplish this. A lot of work has gone into it.”

The task force, working with consultants from the Pew Center on the States, last month suggested ways to cut the state inmate population of nearly 21,000, one-fourth of whom are serving time on drug charges. The state this year will spend more than $460 million on its Corrections Department.

Among other things, the task force recommended that more nonviolent drug criminals be sentenced to probation and addiction treatment instead of prison, although it favored tougher penalties for major drug traffickers. Police and prosecutors raised concerns about weakening their powers in the war on drugs.

The task force included the Senate and House judiciary chairmen, and the judiciary committees and chamber leaders already have been briefed on the proposals, Jensen said. So “we could get it on a fast track” and move the bill through the legislature quicker than usual, he said.

Filed Under: KY General Assembly

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