The new police effort to lock up the city’s most violent criminals is raising concerns about prison overcrowding.
In 10 days, the Louisville Metro Intelligence Task Force, known as LMINTEL, served more than 100 warrants and arrested 82 people.
“If there’s no place to put them here, we’re going to have problems,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine.
Almost all of the state’s prisons are at or above maximum capacity.
Convicted criminals who should be in prison are being housed in local jails across the state.
“We get paid a small amount,” said Wine. “I think it’s $31 a day to hold these prisoners. It doesn’t come close to covering our costs. People in Jefferson County are picking up the costs that should be borne by the state.”
Wine said as LMINTEL continues to serve warrants and make arrests, money should be focused on their efforts, not on housing inmates who should be in state prison.
“We can only do that for so long if we’re going to fight this dangerous criminal element,” he said. “We need every dollar we can put into that effort.”
Wine said the overcrowding concern is everyone’s problem.
“Judges need to be selective about whom they release,” he said. “Prosecutors need to be selective about their recommendations. But it gets back to the state also addressing this problem so that we can run a jail that keeps the dangerous people off the streets. That’s a big, big concern.”
State Rep. Darryl Owens, a Democrat from Louisville, said the issue is deeper than just prison overcrowding.
“The problem is drugs,” he said. “That’s the root cause.”
Owens said drug treatment is a solution to creating space in the prisons.
“You can’t incarcerate yourself out of this problem,” he said. “You’re going to have to have options such as treatment.”
He said in addition to opening up prison cells, treatment options will save the commonwealth cash.
“You have to get to that point that the public understands that putting them in jail isn’t the answer,” he said. “They’re paying for that, and it’s a big price they’re paying.”
Wine said the overcrowding problem is not a new concern, but said it’s becoming a bigger issue as the Louisville Metro Police Department makes more arrests.
In a statement, the Kentucky Department of Corrections said it is aware of the rising prison population.
“However, the department has no control of the number of inmates committed to our custody,” wrote Lisa Lamb, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. “We are legally obligated to carry out the sentence imposed by the court and cannot control the length or sentence or number of sentences imposed by the court.”
Lamb said since Dec. 1 of last year through Tuesday, Jan. 24, an average of 11 inmates a day, excluding weekends and holidays, have been transferred from Metro Corrections.
The statement said the Department of Corrections is “continuing to review the possibility of contracting with private prisons, in order to help alleviate the population concerns.”