Kentucky Politics

Months after failing to pass a bill that would restrict charitable bail organizations, Kentucky lawmakers once again discussed the issue in an informational meeting.

Representatives from the Louisville Bail Project spoke before the interim joint judiciary committee in Frankfort on Thursday.

Shameka Parrish-Wright, an organizer for the Louisville Bail Project who met with the committee, said the funds help low-income Kentuckians who are adversely affected by the cash bail system.

“The human toll of cash bail is catastrophic, levied almost exclusively on the poor and disproportionately on communities of color,” Parrish-Wright said. “People who are jailed pre-trial often wait months and sometimes years for their cases to resolve. In the meantime, they can lose their jobs, their homes, their children, and critical community ties.”

Charitable bail organizations crowdsource money to get people out of jail.

Earlier this year, Kentucky’s Republican-led House attempted to place restrictions on charitable bail operations, but the bill died in the Senate.

Carrie Cole, with the Bail Project, said the group eases mass incarceration by preventing an average of 51 days of jail time for its nearly 4,000 clients in the state.

“This amounts to over 200,000 additional jail days served,” Cole said. “By preventing the unnecessary incarceration that results from wealth-based attention, we estimate that the Bail Project services have saved Kentucky’s taxpayers approximately $15.3 million dollars since 2018.”

GOP State Rep. John Blanton, who sponsored the bill to limit the groups, disagreed with their role in the criminal justice system.

“The fact of the matter is mass incarceration has nothing to do with whether you ought to bail somebody out or whether you can’t,” Blanton said. “Mass incarceration has to do with the fact people are committing crimes, and they’re getting caught committing crimes.”

Some Republicans on the committee claimed the groups contribute to increases in crime. Others said that lawmakers needed to consider how proposed restrictions could negatively impact poor communities throughout Kentucky.

Blanton urged committee members to compromise on regulations.

“Let’s not go down this road of getting under the guise of making us feel better about ourselves, creating a society where we create more crimes,” Blanton said. “Because when you have more crimes, you have more victims.”

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.