New data show that Kentucky’s incarceration rate is increasing, while the national rate continues to decline.
Figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show Kentucky has the ninth-highest incarceration rate in the nation. The commonwealth’s female incarceration rate is more than twice the national average, making it the second-highest in America.
The Justice Reinvestment Work group found that one of the main reasons behind Kentucky’s increasing prison population is the rise in low-level non-violent offenses. Daniel Cameron is the spokesperson for Smart On Crime, a group advocating for criminal justice reform.
“We are looking at if we don’t make any changes to our criminal justice system. Or at least the policies as they’re implemented currently,” Cameron said. “We’re looking at another $600 million over the next 10 years.”
Cameron said the commonwealth can’t afford to put off making reforms to its criminal justice system. He said the state should consider reducing felony drug possession charges to a misdemeanor. Western Kentucky Democrat Rep. Gerald Watkins pre-filed a bill for the 2018 legislative session that would do just that.