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CJPAC Update

CJPAC Update

As was announced in this space a couple of months ago the Bevin administration and legislative leaders from both parties and chambers were joined to create the Governor's Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Committee.  Since the creation of "CJPAC" we've heard a steady stream of data and policy testimony to provide legislative food for thought as we look ahead to the 2017 session.

Last month the CJPAC divided into several subgroups to study specific issues in greater detail:

  • Penal Code
  • Reentry
  • Recidivism Reduction
  • Probation and Parole reforms
  • Drug Policy
  • Prevention
  • Jail reform

I've been assigned to the Penal Code group, tasked with examining any changes to the entire criminal code.  In case you wanted to take a look at every single criminal offense on the books (in the penal code and outside of it) I hope you have some free time on your hands.

Our small group has met once by phone and once in person so far, and we have another meeting scheduled in just under two weeks when we'll discuss continued changes to some of the biggest pain points in the criminal code.  Should some offenses be reclassified to carry more serious penalties?  Lower penalties?  Where are the inconsistencies (possession of child porn carries the same penalty as possession a stolen license plate, for example)?

Last month during the Judiciary committee meeting we heard from prosecutors about the need to eliminate the "violent offense" label in the code.  Especially for everyone outside the court system the suggestion that some crimes are deemed "violent" and others are not is frustrating.  It is also a bit of a misnomer.  There isn't actually a "violent offense" statute, but rather a handful of crimes that carry a "violent" level of parole eligibility.  For these few crimes a convicted individual must serve a full 85% of their imposed sentence before becoming merely eligible for parole.  You can find that statute and the list of applicable crimes right here if you're interested.  It's a short read.  But the bottom line is that there are a great many crimes that anyone of us would deem "violent" that aren't included in that statute.  There's a growing opinion (that I share) that we should remove that label.

We'll take a look at parole eligibility across a number of crimes.  Should the eligibility threshold move up; drop down; stay put?  We have crimes at 15%, 20%, 50% and 85% (50% is a relatively new group, containing a specific high-level theft, certain cases of heroin trafficking).

At the CJPAC meeting last week we heard from the Department of Corrections and from Pew Charitable Trusts (examining Kentucky's own DOC data) and we can identify a number of trends that demand further attention.  For example, the rate of women being incarcerated has increased 25% compared to only 5% for men since 2007.  Property offenses in prison admissions have climbed by nearly 50%.  Two-thirds of prison admissions are for violations of supervision conditions (probation & parole).  I strongly encourage you to take a look at the charts and takeaways in that data presentation.

Needless to say, no small task awaits us.

Bookmark this page or visit my Apple News channel to stay up to date on what's happening with the CJPAC and other legislation as we approach the 2017 session in January.  If you have some input or feedback please contact me here or here!

Juvenile Justice Reform Work Begins

Sen. Westerfield (R, Hopkinsville) speaks at the ceremonial SB200 bill signing at the Christian County Day Treatment center in Hopkinsville (formerly CCMS) on August 28, 2014.

After a two year task force process, and an arduous legislative session filled with thousands of hours of writing, studying, debating and re-writing (rinse and repeat), Senate Bill 200 was finally passed by the General Assembly, and signed into law by the Governor.  SB200 is easily my biggest accomplishment to date, and my bill (as well as the task force process that led to it) has already become a model used by states across the country, the most recent of which are West Virginia and South Dakota.  Best of all, the bill has already brought agencies together to collaborate in an unprecedented way.  The trajectory of the lives of Kentucky's children and their families have already begun to change, and it will only get better.

Gov. Steve Beshear prepares to ceremonially sign Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Sen. Westerfield (R, Hopkinsville - 4th from the right) on August 28, 2014.

A critical part of SB200 sets up a temporary group called the Oversight Council (the group dissolves after 8 years so as to avoid creating another permanent governmental bureaucracy).  The Oversight Council is made up of various agency heads and stakeholder representatives, is co-chaired by the Senate and Judiciary Chairs (as non-voting members), and has two objectives:  (1) discuss each agency's SB200 implementation efforts, including a discussion of problem areas to make recommendations for administrative or legislation action to keep the reforms of SB200 on track, and (2) study and debate a handful of policy issues that SB200 did not include, but that we believed warranted further discussion and possible legislative action down the road.

The first meeting of the Oversight Council took place today (September 4, 2014) and uncovered a couple of trouble spots that agencies can begin to work on immediately.  The collaboration amongst agencies is just refreshing - this is the way government is supposed to work, cooperation, communication and openness.  The meeting was a refreshing break from politics, easily one of the more productive meetings I've had on the job.  I hope this keeps up!

Recently, I had a chance to give an interview with Nick Storm at cn|2 Pure Politics about SB200 and the work agencies have already begun.  Read about it here, and watch cn|2 clip of the interview below.

You can download either a two-page summary of the bill or the legislation in its entirety by heading over to this page.

Juvenile Code Reform

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am pleased to write to you about a potential partnership between Kentucky and the PEW Charitable Trusts on juvenile justice reform.