Kentucky’s prison population has exploded by 600 percent since 1970 and will keep growing because of “irrational” penalties enacted by lawmakers, a study by a respected law professor says. The study by University of Kentucky law professor Robert Lawson, who wrote Kentucky’s penal code, says the burden on taxpayers has increased exponentially. The state’s budget for housing state prisoners has risen from $7 million to more than $300 million since 1970 and is threatening to bankrupt the system, Lawson wrote in the 72-page report.
The Associated Press reports the number of Kentucky inmates has climbed from 2,838 in 1970 to 17,330 last year, according to the report. The report blames that rise on the state’s “brutally harsh” persistent felon law and an array of drug penalties. The study, titled “Difficult Times in Kentucky Corrections — Aftershocks of a ‘Tough on Crime’ Philosophy,” was compiled based on data provided by state agencies, said Lawson, who described Kentucky’s penal code as one of the toughest in the nation as a result of “stupendous” changes enacted piecemeal.