In January, the state will begin releasing prisoners by the hundreds under parole-like supervision guidelines.
The move involves prisoners who have six months left on their sentences. However, locally, the move apparently will not have a large immediate impact.
Currently, 982 inmates across the state are eligible for release when the program starts Jan. 1, but as many as 3,000 could be set free by the end of 2012.
Of those being released in the first wave, 70 percent are Class D felons, the least severe of the felony classifications. Class D felonies include robbery, burglary and some drug crimes and are punishable by one to five years in prison.
Twelve inmates who will be released will return to counties in this area. They include five from Mercer, two each from Boyle, Garrard and Lincoln, and one from Casey.
In addition, six inmates will be released from the Boyle County Detention Center, one from the Lincoln County Regional Jail, 10 from the Casey County Detention Center, and 19 from Northpoint Training Center. Although they are housed in local facilities, they are not necessarily from this area.
House Bill 463, passed with overwhelming support in February, was intended to lower prison costs by both lessening penalties for some crimes and using treatment and post-incarceration monitoring once prisoners are released.
However, the implementation of mandatory re-entry supervision for prisoners who qualify could have a big effect on jail populations and probation and parole operations. According to the Department of Corrections, mandatory re-entry allows inmates not granted discretionary parole to be released under supervision of a parole officer six months before the end of their sentences.
Inmates must have a place to live that is approved by Corrections, undergo monitoring of their progress and are subject to re-incarceration. Many will be expected to undergo substance abuse treatment programs.
Overall, HB463 is expected to save the state Corrections budget $422 million during the next decade. For the initiative to work, though, probation and parole infrastructure had to be beefed up around the state.
Fifty-four employees were added to probation and parole through a $3 million allocation, but with their caseload expected to exceed 49,728 by 2014, more may be needed in coming years.
Warren Lambert, supervisor of probation and parole for the district that includes Boyle and Mercer counties, said his office has a new position approved that will likely be dedicated specifically to handling re-entry. He said the 35-40 cases across his district will be absorbed by existing staff until the new position is filled.
"At this point, it is not going to be a big deal for us," Lambert said.
Lambert said the requirements for monitoring mandatory re-entry will not differ significantly from work on a parole case.
The release of more state inmates is potentially a boon to state budgets but also has some local jailers concerned about losing more of their Class C and D prisoners. Jails have seen costs skyrocket in recent years and the per deim for housing state prisoners, many of whom also do jobs for counties on work release, was used in part to offset that.
Boyle County Jailer Barry Harmon said units for state inmates at most jails are as low as 40-percent capacity. When the six inmates are released from Boyle, Harmon said the state likely will also release the same number and then fill those beds with six more inmates. The net impact is a loss of 12 state inmates from the local jail, Harmon said.
Lincoln County Jailer David Gooch believes HB463 is a good first step, especially by lowering the deductible that jails pay for inmate medical costs from $2,000 to $1,000.
Gooch hopes, though, that jails can be part of solving the larger problem of recurring substance abuse, often a cycle that continues to bring people and their family members through the system multiple times.
"The Kentucky Jailers Association should be more involved," Gooch said. "In order for substance abuse treatment and prevention to be successful, I think you have to allow jails to be utilized more effectively."
Gooch said that means more targeted programs in jails for inmates and their families.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
SO YOU KNOW
Inmates scheduled for release include:
- Boyle County Detention Center: David Hall, Jessica Waddell, William Workman, James Craig, Terrence Cunningham, Joseph Daugherty, Eric Evans and Mark Peel.
- Casey County Jail: Brenda Baker, Tonya Booth, KImberly Bushelman, Dawn Godby, Tiffany Gordon, Samuel Hensley, Elizabeth Hiler, Amanda McKenzie, Patricia Stacy and Carrie Sullivan.
- Lincoln County Regional Jail: Jason Golike.
- Northpoint Training Center: Johnny Castillo, Jerry Cook, Patrick Decker, Rodney Frye, Eddie Gates, Casey Giles, Jeremiah Harris, William Kennedy, Angelo Lacy, Nathan Moore, Lonnie Pearson, Jeremy Pennington, Silbestri Perez-Lucas, Stephen Risner, Edward Sorensen, Johnathan Whitlow, Robert Williams, Wayne Woods and Jeremy Young.
- Other inmates' residences are pending approval by a placement manager:
- Planned residence in Boyle County: Michael Hensley and Jesse Mayberry.
- Planned residence in Casey County: Daniel Fair.
- Planned residence in Garrard County: Lara Underwood.
- Planned residence in Lincoln County: Douglas Ridge and Thomas Blevins.
- Planned residence in Mercer County: George Craig, Carl Isham, William Houchens, Brenda Ellis and Robert Williams.