Blog: Kentucky

Justice System Reinvestment Pays Additional Dividends

When criminal justice systems reduce prison populations and reinvest a portion of the savings in evidence-based methods of reducing crime, not only are taxpayer dollars saved, but more efficient and effective programs can be fiscally prioritized.
For example, Kentucky is using a portion of the savings from reduced prison populations to fund drug treatment beds that aim to get more Kentucky offenders off drugs—for good. Recent data showed Kentucky policymakers that drug treatment can cut recidivism among otherwise addicted inmates by one-third, and the Kentucky Legislature jumped at the chance to save money and reduce crime in their state.
In Hawaii, crime victims will receive additional attention as some of the justice reinvestment savings are used to fund victim counselors and their support staff. This will permit their victims’ outreach efforts to expand from violent crime victims to violent and property crime victims, and for longer periods of time. Putting the focus on victims in this way not only makes the criminal justice system more responsive to community needs, but also what is necessary to make the harmed party whole after the criminal act.

New Leadership in Kentucky's Department of Juvenile Justice

Vera’s Family Justice Program sat down with Hasan Davis, acting commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), to discuss the influence of family in his life and his work.
Vera: How has your family helped you get to where you are today?

Davis: Growing up as a black male with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and a hearing and vision impairment, I realized life for me would be a constant series of challenges to overcome or it would be nothing at all. My parents divorced when I was six. and we went on and off of food stamps. I attended six elementary schools and can remember 10 different permanent and temporary living addresses before I began high school.
When I was 11, I got arrested, and I remember waiting at the police station for my mom. As I saw the other mothers arrive, I could see the fear, frustration, and embarrassment that comes with having a child get caught up in this system, which came out as anger and threats. “I had to leave work to come here. I am going to let them keep you next time. I have three more kids to raise.” So as I waited for my mother, I was getting my speech ready. It was going to start with something like, “I’m a black man, and I am going to do what I have to do to survive, so you need to just back up off me.” When she showed up, she was really calm. I figured she didn’t want to show herself in front of the police, and I thought she’s going to lose it when we get in the car, but instead there was deafening silence. Halfway home I finally found the courage to look up at her, and she was crying these huge tears. She looked down at me and said, “Baby, if you could see what I see every time I look at you, you would know how great you are.”

Kentucky Continues New Focus on Juvenile Justice Reform

Right on Crime recently highlighted a Kentucky judge’s pilot program to better handle status offenders. Now the legislature, too, is joining the effort.
With a unanimous vote, the House Judiciary Committee in Kentucky recently approved establishing a task force, the “Unified Juvenile Code Task Force” to study the issues plaguing Kentucky’s juvenile justice system.
This comes after heightened public attention to the system following instances of delinquency charges filed against very young children—as young as five—as well as high rates of detention for status offenders.
If approved, the task force would study the system and recommend legislation for consideration in 2013.
Juvenile justice reforms in other states have produced savings of millions of dollars and more effective treatment for juvenile delinquents. Kentucky’s focus on this issue could bring the state’s system in line with those best practices and produce better outcomes for both the Bluegrass State’s taxpayers and juveniles.