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Halting of parole credit denied

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Friday denied Attorney General Jack Conway's request to immediately bar the Department of Corrections from releasing prisoners under a new parole credit program.

Shepherd, in his order, said the attorney general could not show that a temporary restraining order was necessary.

Lawyers for the attorney general's office had argued during an Oct. 2 hearing that several people who have been released under the new program have already reoffended and that an immediate injunction was necessary. But Shepherd, in his ruling, said that criminals often reoffend regardless of when they are released from prison.

"The Attorney General's filings also demonstrate that a certain percentage of prisoners will reoffend regardless of the time they are released, and no evidence was offered that there would be any net increase in crime as a result of the Department of Corrections' interpretation of the budget bill," Shepherd wrote.

But the fight over the new parole credit is far from over. Shepherd, in his order, said he will not make a decision on the merits of the new calculations of parole credit until he hears more from both sides. A hearing will be held on Nov. 10.

Officials with the Department of Corrections were not available for comment. Conway said Friday that he will be examining all "legal options" after Shepherd's decision.

"We are disappointed that the court did not take immediate action ..., but we appreciate the fact that Judge Shepherd acknowledged the merits of the case and its impact on public safety," Conway said in a written statement.

At issue are changes made by state lawmakers earlier this year that give credit to convicted felons for time they were on parole if they have to return to prison, commonly called "street time." That credit counts toward their release as time served, meaning they could be freed sooner than they would have been.

In court documents and during an Oct. 2 hearing, lawyers for Conway's office argued that the Department of Corrections should not be giving credit to people who were sentenced before the legislation became law.

The Department of Corrections has argued that the General Assembly enacted the legislation to save the Department of Corrections money and ease overcrowding in Kentucky's prisons.