Law to lower prison population clears hurdle

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Supporters of House Bill 463 say not only will it take care of an increasing prison population, but it will also save Kentucky millions of dollars.

Others argue the bill could take away a powerful deterrent designed to keep people from breaking the law, the threat of prison.

Monday afternoon, Senator after Senator stood up in support of the bill, some calling it "the most important piece of legislation in the past two years."

The bill is designed to keep some non-violent drug offenders out of prison by offering alternatives to prison, like being sentenced to treatment for addiction.

Senators voted 38-0 Monday in a bipartisan show of support for
the measure proposing some of the biggest changes to Kentucky's
drug-control laws in decades.

A short time later, the House accepted the Senate's revisions and gave final passage on a 96-1
vote. The measure now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear.

Supporters said the measure could reap $422 million in gross
savings over a decade. About half that amount would be reinvested
to boost treatment programs and strengthen probation and parole.

Another key goal is to reduce the ranks of repeat offenders
while maintaining public safety. Senate Judiciary Committee
Chairman Tom Jensen said being tough on crime doesn't always mean prison time for offenders.

While the legislation is designed to keep addicts out of prison, it still allows those convicted of drug trafficking to sentenced to prison if found guilty.

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