FRANKFORT, Ky. – State Representative Chris Harris, (D-Forest Hills), is one of 23 legislators, government officials, advocates and policy leaders appointed June 21st to Governor Matt Bevin’s bipartisan initiative to study solutions and make recommendations to improve Kentucky’s criminal justice system.
The Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council (CJPAC) will seek expert advice, study data over the next six months and recommend reforms in the 2017 General Assembly for a smarter, stronger and fairer system of justice, the governor said at a press conference held in the Capitol Rotunda.
CJPAC will be led by Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary John Tilley, who said the council will use policy and evidence to find ways to cut re-offense rates, improve reentry, increase drug treatment and treat mental illness while maintaining and bettering public safety.
Rep. Harris was asked by the governor and cabinet secretary to give remarks at the ceremony in the Rotunda. “I am hopeful that we will treat this initiative for criminal justice reform as an opportunity to build upon the redemptive philosophy that we achieved with the passage of the felony expungement legislation that Rep. Darryl Owens sponsored for many years. We cannot continue to try to incarcerate our way out of the problems facing our society, many of which are rooted in addiction to controlled substances and mental health issues,” said Rep. Harris.
Gov. Bevin formed the bipartisan council in response to a growing patchwork of statutes that now comprise much of the state’s penal code. This has resulted in a costly expansion of Kentucky’s criminal justice system with diminishing returns in public safety.
The Kentucky legislature has enacted important reforms in recent years, including laws that increased substance abuse treatment in prisons, strengthened pretrial release policies, and modified sentences for certain drug offences.
Rep. Harris, who attended the first meeting of CJPAC following the press announcement, said, “Addressing these pervasive issues is the key to solving the problem of the revolving door of incarceration and allowing these folks to reenter society successfully and become contributing members of their communities.”