Prisoner release to backfire, many fear

By FRED LUCAS State Journal Staff Writer Published:

Gov. Paul Patton's unpopular release of nonviolent felons about three months before their sentence is up isn't an effective way to serve taxpayers, critics say. Pointing to national statistics, they claim it could even cost the state more money in the long run.

"They release prisoners and save about $3 million," said Bob Arnold, executive director and CEO for the Kentucky Association of Counties and former Franklin County judge-executive. "But the cost to local governments is $4 million when those same prisoners come back into the system. So the taxpayers are out another $1 million."

National statistics show recidivism rates are high. More than two-thirds of prisoners released early return to prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A study of recidivism rates by the federal agency shows that 67.5 percent of prisoners released in 1994 were arrested within three years of their release. For property offenders the rate was 73.8 percent and 66.7 percent for drug offenders and 61.7 percent for violent offenders.

Earlier this month an Owensboro man was charged with robbing three banks just days after his release. Lisa Carnahan, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, said the state does not have the number of inmates who were charged with another crime after being released.

Attorney General Ben Chandler and U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher, both candidates for governor, seized the chance to attack Patton's decision last week.

For more on this story, see today's State Journal.

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