Judge Blocks Prisoner Release Plan In 3 Counties

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A southern Kentucky judge on Monday blocked the state's plan to release some inmates and parolees early from being applied in three counties.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge David A. Tapp's temporary injunction applies only to inmates who were convicted in his three-county jurisdiction of Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties. His order remains in effect until a legal challenge to the General Assembly's cost-saving early release program is resolved, Tapp said.

"I'm happy. That's what I asked for," Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery said. "I hoped for it statewide, but he just did it in my county. My hope is that the attorney general would take it statewide."

Montgomery had sought a statewide injunction to prevent the
Department of Corrections from releasing inmates from prison early or from dropping parolees from supervision.

Under the plan passed by the legislature, state prison officials have been giving inmates more credit than normal for time served on parole. The extra credit has gone toward fulfilling inmates' minimum sentences.

Kentucky's state government faces a $900 million dip in revenue over the next two years, while expenses soar for services such as the prison system. Lawmakers approved the early release plan, which
is expected to save about $12.5 million, as part of the state's $19 billion budget bill earlier this year.

So far, about 1,000 of Kentucky's 21,000 prison inmates have been released and about 1,500 parolees have been dropped from supervision under the plan.

"Given these astonishing and disturbing numbers, our legislature and executive officers would be remiss not to evaluate and address the budgetary and human costs associated with the exponential growth of state prisoners," Tapp wrote. "Action is demanded."

Tapp said he was granting the temporary injunction in part because citizens would be irreparably harmed if inmates are improperly released from their punishment.
"The decision to grant 'street credit' to offenders for periods of parole served many years and sometimes decades previously does not maintain the status quo," Tapp wrote, "but inexorably alters existing practices in a dramatic and far-reaching manner with grave implications for the public."

Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said officials were "continuing to review the 56-page order and reviewing our options."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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