By Lex Hannan

Kentucky’s people are kind and caring and generous and forgiving. But the state legislature does not reflect these qualities in the criminal justice system. Kentucky imprisons people who can’t pay bail, nonviolent offenders, women and substance abusers at a rate that is growing, while most of the country is reducing incarceration rates, and the costs associated with running prisons.

Locking people in cages is a severe form of punishment that deprives a person of association with friends and family, but it doesn’t end there.

The collateral damage of incarceration includes but is not limited to: loss of job, inability to pay mortgage or rent, loss of home and/or car, loss of parental custody, and ineligibility for government benefits, public housing, some driver’s licenses, student loans, insurance, voting, government employment, and hundreds of different types of jobs requiring a license or permit. The punishment is far worse than the crime.

Incarceration should only be imposed on violent criminals who pose a threat to society. But the legislature causes the imprisonment of people who have not even been convicted of a crime if they can’t make bail.

Our jails are overcrowded and the legislature wants to build more jails to incarcerate people at a cost of $25,000.00 per prisoner per year. When they are released from prison ex-convicts can’t get jobs and therefore can’t rejoin society, so they are condemned to a life of crime, incarceration, and recidivism… all at taxpayer expense.

Let’s stop this ineffective feature of the War on Crime. End the practice of “bail or jail.” Set nonviolent offenders free. Close some prisons and use the money for substance abuse treatment. Stop the cruelty imposed in the name of Kentucky’s citizens by the Dickensian state legislature. The job of the legislature is to defend our rights, not restrict them.

The writer is a Libertarian candidate for Kentucky State Representative, District 66

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