Budget Cuts Free 567 Felons in Kentuckygreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Dec 19, 3:16 AM (ET), By CHARLES WOLFE
(AP) Inmates at the Fayette County Detention Center in Lexington, Ky., wait in a detention cell before...
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Prosecutors fumed as hundreds of low level felons were allowed to leave jails and prisons early as part of Gov. Paul Patton's plan to avert a $6 million deficit in the corrections budget.
"I feel wonderful, man," Kevin Ray Gibson, 26, told the Lexington Herald-Leader after his release four months early for burglary and trafficking in pain pills. "I'm going to get out and get me a job. I got kids I need to take care of. I just need to get out and do right. It's a good Christmas present."
Patton's "conditional commutation" covered 567 prisoners, all described as nonviolent offenders who, on average, were within 80 days of completing their sentences.
"Now we're telling criminals that they don't need to pay attention to the law simply because we can't manage a budget and we can't honor our commitment to the people of this state," said Dave Massamore, commonwealth's attorney in Hopkins County, where 26 felons were sprung from jail.
"So, go home!" he said. "You're free! Merry Christmas! The punishment only applies if we have money."
Under the plan, 363 were scheduled for release Wednesday and the rest were to be set free Friday. The majority were in jails. The Department of Corrections said at least 90 might be immediately imprisoned again because there are charges against them in other counties or states.
Patton's order was intended to cut the number of state prisoners in county jails to 3,736.
Most of those being released were drug traffickers, drug users or thieves. Patton excluded sex offenders, four-time drunken drivers and those deemed to be violent or seriously mentally ill.
The mass release will cost jailers money. Counties depend on the money they get from the state - $28.76 per inmate per day - for holding state prisoners.
"The frustrating thing to me is trying to balance the budget by letting inmates out on the street," said Daviess County jailer Harold Taylor. "We know they're going to be back, there's no question about that."
But some former inmates vowed that they have turned their lives around.
"I'm going home right now and taking care of my family," Charles Knott told the The News-Enterprise of Elizabethtown. He was released 72 days early on a sentence he was serving for failing to pay thousands of dollars in child support.
-- Anonymous, December 20, 2002