Analysis Exposes Problems With Shock Probation

LOUISVILLE, KY -- A Louisville Courier-Journal analysis in the newspaper's Sunday edition shows that of 260 shock probations granted to felons in Jefferson County last year 120 have been arrested or charged again.

Those rearrested were charged in crimes ranging from murder, rape and armed robbery to drug use and driving drunk. More than 60 percent of those new arrests were for felony charges.

"Good gosh, that's a huge figure," said Harry Rothgerber, first assistant with the Jefferson commonwealth's attorney's office. "It says that shock probation is being used inappropriately."

Judges agree the numbers are high, but they say that Kentucky's crowded jails and prisons are forcing them to look for sentencing alternatives. In fact, they say the state mandates it, reports the C-J.

"It's sad," Jefferson Circuit Judge Martin McDonald said of the number of people rearrested while on shock probation, "but we don't have the space to keep everybody in custody."

Jefferson County's problems are aggravated by prosecutors who use the prospect of shock probation as a way to get defendants to plead guilty, promising they won't object to the early release. Prosecutors in some other counties, such as Fayette, object to nearly every offender's request for shock probation, saying they should serve their sentences, reports the newspaper.

"Shock has become a bargaining chip," said state Appeals Court Judge Thomas Wine. "…We have expanded it to people who are no longer first-time offenders."

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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