Probation vs. Jail time: What's the best solution for non-violent offenders?

By: Tamara Evans Email
By: Tamara Evans Email

It happens everywhere...crime in our community.
According to Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, violent crime in Lexington is on the decline.

"Last year it dropped by 2.2% from 2009," says Ray Larson.

It's the non-violent crimes that increased last year, from 9,724 crimes in 2009 to 10,124 in 2010.

"The sentencing philosophy that's being sent down from Frankfort by our lawmakers is don't send these people to prison. They say it costs too much to send people to prison and keep them there," says Ray Larson.

Larson says as more inmates are released, non-violent property crimes, like thefts and burglaries, have gone up.

"Most of them are repeat offenders. You don't have a burglar who commits one burglary and that's it," says Ray Larson.

"You have to have the facilities to house those individuals and that's where we continue to run into problems," says Chief Regional Circuit Judge Thomas Clark.

Now Judge Thomas Clark and other judges are forced to look at alternatives for non-violent offenders.

"There has been different pieces of legislation enacted by our legislation over the last few years that in fact require judges on first offenses, even second offenses, a defendant whose pleading guilty to a non-violent crime is obligated to first grant probation," says Judge Thomas Clark.

Judge Clark says he believes the treatment for these offenders, like drug court, is working.

"We're averaging less as far as individuals on probation who are re-offending or committing new offenses and having their probation revoked," says Judge Clark.

However, Ray Larson says he believes the process isn't working.

"These guys have no expectations of being punished or incarcerated, so what keeps them from doing it again? Nothing," says Ray Larson.

As for the average number of probations in Fayette County, Judge Thomas Clark says there are around two-thousand probations at anytime.

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