Kentucky’s Department of Corrections has spent more than $28 million trying to resolve problems accounting for how much good-time credit prison and jail inmates have earned since 2007.
The money has gone to an international auditing firm, KPMG, which has worked to straighten out Kentucky’s errors following a class-action lawsuit and court order for the state to do so.
The state could be on the hook for even more money if a court awards damages to inmates whose good-time credits weren’t recognized and who were held beyond what should have been their release dates.
During a legislative meeting on Thursday, Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble said she believes the end of the nearly decade-long lawsuit is in sight.
“It was apparent that over the years we had not adequately tracked who was doing what, what they were getting credit for and how that credit was applied to the sentence,” Noble said during a meeting of the legislature’s Interim Committee on Justice and the Judiciary.
Noble said the state has developed uniform course catalogs and improved communications to reach out to inmates who qualify for good-time credits.
Starting in 2007, state legislators passed a series of laws that allowed people in prisons and jails to reduce their sentences by doing things like teaching classes, taking coursework, getting degrees and receiving drug treatment.
The state’s community and technical college system initially managed the program, but it was eventually moved to the Department of Corrections, where inmates suing the state say officials didn’t keep track of hours logged or even which classes qualified.
Inmates filed a class-action lawsuit in 2012 in Franklin Circuit Court, where Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled against the state and ordered an audit for the state to identify every inmate who had qualified for good-time credits since 2007.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove affirmed that ruling in 2018 after the state moved the case to federal court, and the state contracted with international auditing firm KPMG.
According to Noble’s presentation on Thursday, KPMG has identified 2,400 credit awards owed to inmates, representing 922,260 total days of good-time credit.
KPMG says if the credits are awarded, the state would save between $28 million and $70 million in incarceration costs from housing and feeding inmates.
Rep. Ed Massey, a Republican from Hebron and House Judiciary Committee chair, noted that beyond credits that need to be awarded to current inmates, the state could be responsible for compensating former inmates.
“Prospectively, the state could be exposed to a sizable judgement, if you will, or damages if things don’t go the way they’re hopeful to,” Massey said.
Noble said she couldn’t talk specifically about ongoing litigation.
“There are those over the course of this litigation who have served out, that potentially did not get their custody credit that they should’ve gotten,” Noble said. “And that is unknown at this time what that might amount to.”
Noble said she hoped the audit would be completed this summer.