Kentucky officials are asking Gov. Steve Beshear and the legislature to steer criminal suspects with addiction problems into intensive treatment rather than jail, says the Lexington Herald-Leader. Kentucky is bankrupting itself by imprisoning drug addicts and alcoholics, lawmakers were told last week. “We have too many people in jails, too many people in prisons,” state Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Our capacity to care for them has been strained to the limit.” The state is poorly served by locking up street-level addicts, he said. “I don’t think we’re getting the worst drug lords into the prisons. We’re just getting the people who went out and got caught. It’s the low-hanging fruit.”
The state Corrections Department will spend $417 million this year on prisons that are full, with state inmates overflowing into crowded county jails. Kentucky soon will imprison 23,000 state inmates on felonies, not counting the thousands of local inmates held on misdemeanors. A bill pending in the legislature would establish an intensive three-month to six-month addiction treatment program for people charged with felonies. The committee unanimously approved the bill Thursday and sent it to the full Senate. The Senate Republican leader said the bill has the support of both political parties in his chamber, as well as the state’s judiciary, prosecutors, and public defenders. The cost should be negligible, he said.