FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Less than two weeks before he outlines his two-year budget proposal, Governor Andy Beshear held a news conference Friday to frame criminal justice reform as a matter of fiscal responsibility.
"Criminal justice reform is not just the right thing to do, but we must do it based on our current reality and on our budget," said Gov. Beshear.
Beshear said surging incarceration rates (the administration claims the state's incarcerated population has increased 40% since 2004) have translated to rising prison costs.
While more people end up behind bars every year, facilities are struggling to keep up.
Beshear said the state has lost more than 1,200 medium security beds since 2016. He attributed that to crumbling infrastructure.
He told the media Friday that over the next three years, the estimated cost increases to maintain operations will be more than $115 million.
"The increases over the next three years or two and a half are about the costs for what it would take to get us to universal Pre-K in Kentucky for a year," said Beshear. "That is the missed opportunity if we don't address the rising costs due the surging incarceration rates, the crumbling facilities, and the reality that our prisons are not located in a way that's sustainable moving forward."
The governor said he wants to see criminal justice reform that tackles racial bias and racism in the justice system, provides meaningful addiction treatment and recovery services, and decreases recidivism.
He expressed optimism that these efforts can gain traction in the legislature.