When Demetrius Bradley came before a Louisville judge last December, he had served just five months of an eight-year sentence for felony drug possession, assault, and wanton endangerment — with two other felony cases pending. Still, a judge deemed him a good candidate for “shock” probation, which allows inmates to be released after serving one-to-six month terms. Less than seven months later, Bradley was back in court — this time charged with fatally shooting a man and wounding a woman in a home robbery, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. “It shows that the justice system, to me, is totally messed up,” said the murdered man’s mother.
Shock probation, started with nonviolent officers, now includes repeat and violent offenders who were never intended to be part of the program, officials acknowledge. A Courier-Journal analysis of 260 shock probations granted in Louisville’s Jefferson County last year shows that 120 have been arrested or charged again in crimes ranging from murder, rape and armed robbery to drug use and driving drunk. More than 60 percent of new arrests were for felony charges. “Good gosh, that’s a huge figure,” said Harry Rothgerber, first assistant with the Jefferson prosecutor’s office. “It says that shock probation is being used inappropriately.” Judges agree the numbers are high, but they say Kentucky’s crowded jails and prisons force them to look for sentencing alternatives.