Politics

A bill proposed in the state House of Representatives would reduce penalties for some crimes with the goal of saving the state money, according to the legislation’s sponsor.

Rep. Brent Yonts, a Democrat from Greenville, has filed a bill that would create a new crime category called “gross misdemeanor,” which would include flagrant non-support (not paying child support), second degree forgery and second degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Yonts said on Tuesday that the bill would help reduce the incarcerated rate in Kentucky, which has risen over the last decade despite a drop in criminal court cases.

“If we don’t do anything to solve that problem, nothing is going to change,” Yonts said. “More taxpayer money will be required to make the budget take care of the prisoners in our prison system and also the prisoners in our county jail.”

The three crimes included in the bill are all Class D felonies, which have an average sentence of just over three years, according to the Department of Corrections. Under Yonts’ bill, those convicted of gross misdemeanors would receive a maximum sentence of 24 months.

An average of 202 inmates were incarcerated for the charges each year since 2011.

The bill would also establish an “earned parole” policy for those convicted of non-violent, non-sexual Class D felonies and gross misdemeanors. Those who qualify would be paroled after serving 15 percent or two months of a sentence, whichever is longer.

According to the bill’s fiscal note estimate, that parole reform alone would save the state nearly $20 million per year.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.