Early inmate release: What it means for you

It will save Kentucky millions of dollars, but will it put your safety at risk?

In about three weeks the state will release hundreds of inmates early, thanks to a new program Kentucky lawmakers recently approved.

Supporters say those inmates will be supervised, but some prosecutors worry that won't be enough to stop crime.

On Jan. 3rd the Department of Corrections is mandated to release 969 prison inmates from its facilities across the state and about 260 more every month after that. It's because of House Bill 463, or the Criminal Justice Reform Bill, recently passed by the state legislature.

"It really is to target recidivism, to work with these offenders, to try to make them transition into the community and back into society, successful," said Lisa Lamb with the Department of Corrections.

The states current prison population is more than 20,000. The legislation calls for the release of the approved segment, six-months prior to the completion of their sentence.

The bills sponsor, Representative John Tilley, says without this legislation, these offenders would serve out the remainder of their sentences and walk free without any supervision.

"It's more important that we supervise these individuals rather than just releasing them," Representative Tilley said.

Tilley points out the most violent offenders are not eligible for the program. He says most are considered 'low risk' and must have planned and approved residences when they get out.

We looked into it and found of the 969 inmates getting out next month,
26 will return to Fayette County, nine will be heading for Pulaski County, seven to Whitley, six to Madison and five to Scott County. The numbers are less in other area counties.

"Hell, there's a reason their in prison, and that's typically because they're repeat offenders," said Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson.

Larson says he always has concerns with programs giving criminals a 'get out of jail early card.'

"When they're on the streets, these repeat offenders, we know that they commit crime, after crime, after crime, and whey they are in prison, guess what? They don't," said Larson.

Representative Tilley says, he understands Larson's concerns. But believes this program, modeled after other states, where it's proven successful, will work here, too.

"The numbers in studies prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they'll re-offend less and communities will be safer if they're supervised."

The Department of Corrections estimates the program will save the state $42 million in the first year and more than $420 million in ten years.

All discharged inmates will be monitored for progress and compliance and they could return to prison if they violate the terms of release.

The bill also created 36 new positions in the Department of Corrections to handle the increased case load.

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