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Local News Politics

Commowealth’s Attorney Concerned Rehabilitation Facilities Can’t Handle Early Release Program

by Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

The Commonwealth’s Attorney for thee eastern Kentucky counties has concerns about a mandatory release program that begins next week.

The Department of Corrections is due to release nearly 1,000 nonviolent felons back into their communities as part of an effort to save on prison costs. The released prisoners will be on probation

But Anna Melvin isn’t sure the rehabilitation programs are in place to ensure an effective transition. Melvin is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 24th District, covering Lawrence, Johnson and Martin counties. She supports initiatives to curb drug addiction, but says there aren’t enough facilities to take in everyone who needs help.

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Local News

New U of L Exhibit Showcases Prison Art

A new art exhibit called “Bars to Walls” begins Friday at the University of Louisville, which showcases artwork from Kentucky state prisoners.

Around 70 inmates from nine different prisons are participating in the exhibit. Cory Maynard is one of the few artists who will be able to see their artwork in public. He’s a current parolee who now lives in Ohio. He never painted before becoming an inmate, but then he created a large mural in Unit 5, he said.

“In the actual painting it’s a man who gets arrested. It’s a man who goes through depression, loneliness, anger, fear, you name it. It tries to depict, well I guess, what an addict feels and goes through; and then how to get back on his feet, how to make a man out of something that wasn’t,” said Maynard.

The mural depicts the life of an addict, he said. Pictures of the mural are at the exhibit. Maynard said had he not gone to prison, he might not have known he could paint. He felt lucky to have the chance and resources to paint the mural, which he estimates is 11 by 30 feet wide.

“My art, it was a long shot. For it to even be up there, it was a feat that most people don’t get to do. I was just one of the lucky guys I guess,” he said.

Only two of the artists have the chance to see their artwork in public, said Kathy Salomon, the U of L doctoral student who is organizing the exhibit. But she said that parts of the exhibit will be videotaped and shown later to the inmates.

There are pictures of the mural at the exhibit, which runs until Sept. 25 at U of L’s Art Hite Galleries.

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Local News Politics

Frankfort Prison to Become State Police Training Academy

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has decided to close a minimum security prison and make it a training academy for Kentucky State Police.

Beshear says the state no longer needs the Frankfort Career Development Center, which houses 205 low-risk inmates.

“Our inmate population has dropped, more than 1600 inmates, between February 15, 2008 and April 20 of this year. This is a sustained drop and we expect that trend to continue,” he says.

KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer is happy with th development.

“I’d like to thank Secretary Brown and Governor Beshear for their innovativeness and their leadership in allowing us to do that – and definitely the Department of Corrections for their generosity. It’s not many days that you get a 362 acre complex deeded over to you,” he says.

Positions at other correctional facilities have already been found for the 47 staff members at the Frankfort prison. The inmates will be sent to county jails, halfway houses and community supervision. KSP will get keys to the prison on July 1st.

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Local News Politics

Corrections Bill Gives Police More Discretion on Whether to Arrest Some Offenders

The corrections bill passed by the Kentucky General Assembly may change how police treat anyone caught with drugs.

The legislation is meant to reduce prison costs and crowding largely by steering drug offenders toward treatment programs. Senate Judiciary Committee chair Tom Jensen says it also gives police more flexibility to issue citations for misdemeanor drug crimes, such as marijuana possession, rather than make arrests.

“The officer would have some discretion in those circumstances. We don’t make it mandatory on those when it’s a misdemeanor drug offense. It’ll be up to the officer,” he says.

Jensen says citations can lead to court appearances and incarceration or punishment, but it will be up to officers whether to immediately jail someone found with marijuana. He says the corrections bill and the attempts to reduce the number of drug offenders in state prisons is not a step toward legalizing any drugs.

Governor Steve Beshear says he will sign the bill.

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Local News Politics

Beshear Says He Will Sign Corrections Reform Bill

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says he will sign a recently-passed bill that aims to reduce prison populations and cost.

The state Senate and House passed the amended measure Monday. The bill boosts treatment programs and alternative sentencing for nonviolent criminals. It also calls for changes to probation and parole programs to reduce recidivism.

The bill’s proponents say it will save the state more than $400 million over ten years. About half of those savings will be reinvested into programs to keep the prison population low.

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Local News Politics

Attorney Seeks to Block Lethal Injection Drug Doses From Being Used

An attorney for several death row inmates in Kentucky wants to stop the state from using a recently-acquired stock of a lethal injection drug.

There is a national shortage of sodium thiopental, which is one of the drugs used in executions. The commonwealth recently purchased enough of the drug from a company in Georgia to perform three lethal injections.

Public defender David Barron has asked a judge to block any executions that use the doses purchased from Georgia. He says the purchase violates previous court orders.

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Local News Politics

Recidivism Rates Drop In Kentucky

The percentage of felons who return to prison has reached a ten-year low in Kentucky, and the drop is likely due to new treatment and recovery programs.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Lisa Lamb says the drop in the recidivism rate can’t be specifically attributed to new initiatives aimed at helping felons re-enter society, avoid parole violations and break addictions, but those programs likely played a role.

“We know what we’ve been doing in the last few years, and we believe that we’re starting to see a difference, see an impact on the actual population…which is down,” she says.

The new programs were largely federally-funded partnerships with existing services. Lamb says despite the shaky economy, she’s confident the programs will continue.

Kenucky’s two and three year recidivism rates are both at ten-year lows.

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Local News

Riot Report Delayed

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh.

State officials now say a final report on the cause of a recent riot at a central Kentucky prison will be made public early next week.

Corrections officials had planned to release the findings of a Critical Incident Review Team today, but the report won’t reach Justice Secretary Michael Brown’s hands until late this afternoon, and he will need time to study it.

The review team has been investigating why prisoners at the Northpoint Training Center near Danville rioted August 21st.

During the melee, six buildings, including the prison kitchen, were destroyed by fire. Several inmates and staff were treated for minor injuries, but there were no escapes.

Two employees of the prison who testified before legislative panels in Frankfort blamed lousy food and prison yard restrictions for the riot, but gang violence has also been cited.

More than 100 inmates of the prison face disciplinary action in connection with the disturbance.

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Blog Archive Environment Blog

Madoff in "Green" Prison

Bernie Madoff’s investment strategy was far from sustainable.  But his prison is!

That’s right.  Madoff’s clink is the nation’s first LEED-certified prison. A LEED rating is the U.S. Green Building Council’s measure of environmentally sustainable design and construction. According to Correctional News, the facility has bike storage for employees, alternative fuel filling stations, low-flow showers for inmates, and uses “green” cleaning products.

Bilked investors may not reap any green from Madoff’s environmentally friendly incarceration.  But perhaps they’ll take comfort in knowing that his once-giant footprint has shrunk.

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Local News

Proposal to Trim Prison Population: Change Felony Law

Like other agencies, Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet must trim four percent from its budget.  The agency oversees the state’s prisons, which have seen the largest growth in population in the country.  Cabinet Secretary Michael Brown is proposing changes in the law which might help slow that growth.  Brown says one option is to set the bar higher for felony thefts.  Right now, stealing something worth $300 dollars can send you to prison.  Brown would like to see that raised to $500, or higher.

“If you don’t reach the felony threshold then you’re treated as a misdemeanor, which means you don’t come into the prison system.  You’re more likely to be in  program at the local level, where the focus is most likely to be on restitution,” says Brown.

The state legislature will have to consider this and other proposals.  Brown is also recommending streamlining the sentencing process and reducing drug conviction sentences.