Monday, April 18, 2011

Catching government doing good: Becoming 'smart' on crime

While there was a lot of political acrimony and grandstanding during this year's legislative sessions, lawmakers did lay aside their partisanship and crossed the bridge from just being "tough on crime" to becoming "smart on crime."

House Bill 463, which was signed by Gov. Steve Beshear on March 3, will save Kentucky taxpayers an estimated $420 million over the next decade by overhauling drug laws, as well as the sentencing, probation and parole system.

A task force on the issue, chaired by Democratic Rep. John Till, a former prosecutor, and Republican Sen. Tom Jensen, a criminal defense attorney, had solicited research from the Pew Center of the States about what had worked in other states.

The study "provided research about what had worked in other states, such as Texas, which reduced costs while lowering the crime rate," Ronnie Ellis, a reporter and columnist for CNHI News Service, wrote. "Polling showed the public preferred 'swift and certain punishment' to long, costly sentences. The polls also indicated the public favored treatment over incarceration for nearly three-quarters of Kentucky inmates who were addicts."

Ellis chronicles how this sound government policy came about and, frankly, its necessity by showing how Kentucky's corrections budget has increased and how "jails were bleeding county budgets dry."

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