A Kentucky lawmaker is taking issue with proposed legislation aimed at tackling the state’s growing heroin problem.
Legislation from Republican Sen. Katie Stine would raise penalties for heroin traffickers and punish dealers by reclassifying overdose deaths as criminal homicide when there is sufficient evidence.
Although Stine says her legislation would also attempt to shore up drug treatment efforts, Sen. Perry Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, says it's another misstep in the failed War on Drugs.
“I’ve voted against it in the past, I’ll probably vote against it in the future. She’s using the same old law enforcement, criminal technique against drugs that don’t work.”
Clark says he does support the idea of a “Good Samaritan” law, in which individuals who bring an overdose victim to the attention of emergency services may be granted immunity. Stine has said her measure would include such a provision.
A report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet says that heroin deaths in Kentucky have risen 550 percent between 2011 and 2012.
A Kentucky State Police operation to apprehend a record number of drug traffickers has fallen short of its goal.
The KSP launched Operation Black Friday on Nov. 1, and since then they have arrested 339 out of a total 479 targeted offenders.
Although the operation was billed as the largest one-day drug roundup in agency history, the bulk of the arrests were made over the course of the past month. KSP spokesman Trooper Paul Blanton says despite calling short, Black Friday is the largest operation led by the agency, and a third of the targets remain at-large, and might still be caught.
“There are still arrest warrants out there. It’s just the nature of the people that the arrests warrants are for: They’re transient; they’re not staying in the same place. Once several, or once one of the people they normally do business with ends up going to jail, you know, that makes them kind of try and get under the radar," Blanton said.
Blanton did not say how much the operation cost, adding that ‘Black Friday’ would continue until however long it takes.
Officials with the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force say they made 14 arrests Friday of the 23 offenders they were looking for in Warren and Simpson Counties. Director Tommy Loving says the arrests were without incident.
Kentucky State Police troopers are rounding up hundreds of drug suspects in what the state's lead police agency calls the largest one-day drug crackdown in its history.
State police officials said Friday that posts across the state are expected to arrest 479 people. The arrests are expected to result in 774 charges in a state plagued by drug abuse.
State police Commissioner Rodney Brewer says the roundup called Operation Black Friday is the result of tips. Among the tipsters was a mother whose son is a drug addict. Brewer says her tips led to the arrest of the alleged drug dealer selling to her son.
Brewer says the charges involve such drugs as marijuana, heroin, prescription drugs and methamphetamine.
While lawmakers this week celebrated reforms to Kentucky’s criminal justice system, prosecutors warn it’s no time for a party.
Proponents say the reforms successfully cut corrections costs and enhanced drug treatment programs. Reforms also allow the state to delay the prosecution of some drug possession offenders while they seek treatment.
Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Leveridge says those offenders are often back on the street, without any penalty.
“There case be reviewed from time to time just to see how it’s going, but they don’t have to enter a guilty plea or anything like that and there’s very little structure or options for those people to get treatment,” he said.
Leveridge stresses drug traffickers are still prosecuted with vigor. He adds low-income and homeless Kentuckians may have a hard time arranging drug treatment.
A judge is considering whether a civil trial involving the maker of OxyContin should be moved away from Pikeville.
The lawsuit filed by Kentucky Attorney General against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma alleges that the company misled health care providers, consumers and government officials regarding the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin. Conway is seeking reimbursement of money spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions.