Kentucky’s public advocate has been pushing for reforms and more resources to ease the burden on the state’s overworked public defenders for years — but this time he may have some unlikely allies, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. “There's a growing group of people across the political spectrum who want something different,” said Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan. He is pushing what he calls 10 common sense reforms amid plans by both conservative and liberals to discuss criminal justice issues in the legislative session that begins in January.
Almost every Kentucky public defender carries a caseload higher than the maximum national standard, putting the quality of representation at risk. And with starting salaries that are among the lowest in the region — $38,770 a year, compared to $47,000 in Indiana — the department has had a tough time recruiting and retaining attorneys. Among other things, Monahan is urging policymakers to reclassify minor misdemeanors as violations; create a “gross misdemeanor” classification for low-level felons; promote employment and reducing recidivism by allowing expungement of Class D felonies; reduce jail time by creating a “clear and convincing” standard for the pretrial release decision, and use the idea of presumed parole for eligible low-risk offenders.