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Ky Lawmakers Seeking Prison Costs Cuts

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Having spent much of the first half of the session filling a big budget hole, legislators are now scrambling to push through a series of measures aimed at reducing prison costs, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

With just 12 legislative days to go, at least six such bills approach skyrocketing costs from a variety of angles -- including expanded drug treatment, more credits for education and good behavior and raising the threshold for certain theft offenses.

"There are a number of things coming together which are going to be foundations," Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said.

Officials are hurriedly working to draft two additional proposals that would expand eligibility for parole for sick and disabled inmates and allow pre-sentence investigations to be waived if all sides agree, Brown said.

Those proposals could be slipped into "shell" bills introduced before the bill-filing deadline.

During debate on one measure last week, prosecutors expressed their frustration at the fast pace at which the bill was moving through the process.

"I have a governor who wants to see some results, and I think he's entitled to those results," responded Hopkinsville Democrat John Tilley, who became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee just a few weeks ago.

Beshear and legislative leaders have expressed growing concern about the burgeoning corrections budget and a fast-growing prison population.

Kentucky is expected to spend about $450 million to house prisoners this year, compared with $7 million in 1973. Even adjusting for inflation, the state spends about 14 times more to house inmates now than it did then.

The state's prison population -- about 22,000 -- is the fastest-growing in the nation and could reach 31,000 within 10 years, according to a recent report by the Pew Center on the States, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal.

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