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A handful of criminal justice reform bills pass in Ky. legislature, head to Beshear’s desk

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 5:23 PM CDT
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Ky. (WBKO) - Kentucky lawmakers were burning the midnight oil to meet Tuesday night’s deadline to pass legislation. While bills varied in a wide variety of topics and issues, there were several bills that passed relating to criminal justice reform bills.

House Bill 126 increases the felony threshold from $500 to $1,000 passed in the House and Senate and now heads to the governor’s desk. Essentially, if someone steals something up to $999 dollars, it would now be considered a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Another bill that passed was Senate Bill 84 which pertains to pregnant women who are incarcerated. The bill establishes restrictive housing and medical observation of inmates who are pregnant or in the immediate postpartum period.

Incarcerated women are the fastest-growing prison population in Kentucky, said Senator Whitney Westerfield (R) of Hopkinsville. The bill overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate with zero votes against it.

“We heard gripping testimony from a young woman who gave birth while in custody, and she was having a C section and was still shackled to the bed. And I just I don’t understand, I just can’t imagine that. I mean, what flight risk does that woman present? Why is that necessary?”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for a signature or veto.

Senate Bill 36 was rolled into Senate Bill 32 which would return discretion to local prosecutors and judges so they can make decisions about what juvenile cases to transfer to adult court.

Bill sponsor, Westerfield (R), says in every case the judge looks at a list of factors to determine whether or not it belongs in circuit court and should a kid be tried as an adult. He adds there are almost a dozen factors listed except for when a handgun is involved.

“Senate Bill 36 simply says for these firearm-related cases, we’re going to let the judge make that same decision. And I think as a practical matter, most of those are going to be transferred anyway to the circuit court, but I want the judge that is trusted to make the decision on literally every other criminal case, to make the same judgment call on this kind of case,” said Westerfield.

The bill received final passed Tuesday and is on the governor’s desk awaiting a signature or veto.

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