Ashley Spalding, a senior policy analyst with the progressive nonprofit Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said the reports’ findings were no surprise.
“Every legislative session there are numerous laws passed that actually increase criminal penalties,” Spalding said. “If more Kentuckians understood all these critical data points, then we might have more momentum as a state to move forward with reforms.”
You can read the full report here. Among the findings for Kentucky:
The jail population increased by 76 percent from 2000 to 2015.
In 2017, white people made up 86 percent of the state’s population, and represented 76 percent of the prison population. Black people made up 9 percent of the state’s population, but represented 21 percent of the prison population.
The number of women in jail increased 44-fold, rising from 83 women in 1970 to 3,727 in 2015.
In 2015, pretrial detainees made up 43 percent of the state’s total jail population.
Jefferson County reported the highest annual count of jail and prison admissions in 2015, but Grayson County had the highest rate of jail admissions. Bell County reported the highest rate of prison admissions.
“Mississippi and South Carolina have made significant reforms that have resulted in declining incarceration, and there have been budgetary savings and closures in facilities,” Spalding said.
Those reforms include adding alternatives to incarceration and reducing the time served before parole eligibility.
“We can look to some other states from what they’ve already done, and we don’t have to be the worst on these measures,” she said.
Louisville Metro Corrections Assistant Director Steve Durham said the report highlights Kentucky’s need for cash bail reform.
“Bail is really just an impact of poverty, because if you have the cash you pay the bail. If you have no cash, you stay in jail. And that just is not a fair and equitable system,” Durham said. “This is a great opportunity for [an] individual to take a look at the data, give a little bit of texture to it, and understand the impact of bail.”
Opposition to cash bail has mounted in Kentucky recently.
Spalding expects legislators will discuss incarceration reform when they meet for legislative session this January. A KCEP study of Kentucky’s rising incarceration rate, funded by a $10,000 Vera grant, is expected to be completed by then.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear fulfilled another of his “week one” campaign promises on Thursday by signing an executive order to automatically restore voting rights to people with nonviolent felonies who have completed their sentences. He estimated the move would allow more than 140,000 people to vote.
A family court judge in Kentucky is facing numerous accusations of professional and sexual misconduct, as state authorities say Kenton County Judge Dawn Gentry coerced colleagues to support her election campaign, made inappropriate advances toward an attorney and had sex in a courthouse office.