FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky has made significant strides in putting former prisoners on a path toward productive lives and away from committing new crimes, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday.
The Democratic governor announced that the state’s recidivism rate has dropped to a record-low 27.15% — meaning barely more than 1-in-4 people released from prison are committing new crimes. The reoffending rate was 44.56% in 2017, Beshear said at his weekly news conference.
Recidivism is defined by the state Department of Corrections as a new felony committed within 24 months of release or a return to state custody based on a technical violation of supervision, according to the department.
Beshear touted the success of several initiatives for helping state inmates secure jobs and addiction treatment at record levels, which he credited for keeping more Kentuckians from returning to prison. The programs offer people the “second chances that the Bible teaches us to give,” the governor said.
“Those are people that are getting in secure jobs, hopefully getting back with their families,” Beshear said. “They are not reoffending and they are contributing to society.”
Beshear’s comments come amid his reelection campaign against Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, the state’s attorney general. Public safety looms as a key issue in this year’s Bluegrass State showdown, which could offer something of a preview of voter sentiment ahead of 2024 national campaigns for the White House and control of Congress.
Cameron has bashed the governor’s record on combating crime. State Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard said Wednesday that the governor was describing an “alternate universe,” adding that “the reality is he sits on his hands while violent crime goes up.”
Beshear said public safety is enhanced when released prisoners are given opportunities meant to help ensure they don’t commit new crimes. And he pointed to statistics reflecting significant gains made during his term as governor, while crediting corrections officials and others for the achievements.
Addiction treatment beds have been filled at record levels within the state corrections department, he said. Among inmates completing the treatment program, 75% of them were still employed a year after their release from custody, the governor said, citing a recent study.
“This is treating the cause,” he said. “So many of these crimes probably began with an addiction that led to the crimes. Treating the addiction helps us prevent the type of recidivism that we have seen in the past.”
Meanwhile, the employment rate among those released from state incarceration has reached 57%, compared to 49% four years ago, Beshear said. The corrections department has bolstered staffing for its re-entry services to assist inmates as they make the transition from prison into society, he said.
The governor touted a statewide project that offers no-cost transportation for former inmates so they can make it to such things as addiction treatment and job interviews. And he praised a “prison-to-work” initiative announced last year that’s aimed at helping line up jobs for inmates before they leave custody.
The result is that about 72% of released inmates are not returning to prison – a state record, Beshear said, while adding that he wants to see those numbers improve further.
“I still believe and continue to believe that good people in the non-profit sector and the private sector and in government, working together, can make a difference in our society –- especially serving those that with that extra help … we can get on a better track,” Beshear said.
Doing that kind of thing reduces recividism, he added, which ultimately “makes us safer in our communities.”