Some big changes could be in store for the federal criminal justice system. In a speech to the American Bar Association Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said some of the changes include scaling back the use of harsh prison sentences for certain drug-related crimes and diversion of low-level offenders to drug treatment and community service.
Kentucky already has experience with what Holder is proposing. The General Assembly passed a law in 2011 to reduce the prison population using some of the same methods. Kentucky Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown talked about the law's impact as a guest on NPR's Here and Now.
"A year ago, our prison population was 22,118. Today it was 19,899," explained Brown. "When you estimate a little over $20,000 a year, and that's a conservative estimate, to house each inmate, that starts adding up to real dollars."
Despite concerns by opponents of early release, Secretary Brown said recidivism is down and Kentucky's crime rate has remained virtually flat since the law took effect two years ago.