Kentucky’s effort at prison reform claims another victim: Rodney Ballard, commissioner of the State Department of Corrections, who resigned.
Justice Secretary John Tilley drank the Pew Commission Kool-aid in 2011 when he persuaded the legislature that Pew reforms could reduce prison populations and provide jails with incentives to take more state prisoners.
Jails were also struggling financially, and the bill offered hope — false hope. The bill restructured the penal code to reduce many state felony charges to misdemeanors. Probation and parole was to be the elixir to make this happen through a new classification system.
As always in Kentucky, innovation wasn’t followed by adequate funding to allow the scheme even a prayer of success. Now the jails are at 150 percent capacity, and the state prisoners who were released are back in jail waiting to return to prisons without beds to house them.
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The magic classification has failed, Tilley is having to answer for these systemic failures and, as always, the corrections commissioner has been cast under the bus.
Jails are attempting to build more beds to capture their share of dwindling state revenue. The state is looking for solutions, like the privatization that failed before, and the rate of drug-related violence in Lexington and Louisville is out of control.
Who will be the next to fail because of flawed policy?