The1st meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice and Judiciary of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue was held on<Day> Thursday, November 13, 2008, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Jesse Crenshaw, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Mr. Bill Patrick from the Kentucky County Attorney’s Association; Mr. J. Michael Brown, Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Mr. Ronald Haws, Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice; Ms. Ladonna Thompson, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections; Mr. Paul Gannoe, Director of Division of Engineering and Contract Administration; and Mr. Jerry Graves, Deputy Commissioner of the Finance.
LRC Staff: Mr. Bart Hardin, Mr. Mike Mullins, Ms. Jennifer Anglin and Ms. Christina Lee.
Chairman Crenshaw called the meeting to order at 10:13 A.M. He welcomed guests and introduced Mr. J. Michael Brown, Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Secretary Brown thanked the committee and began updating the committee on recommendations from the Criminal Justice Council regarding controlling corrections costs. Commissioner Ladonna Thompson of the Department of Corrections also joined Secretary Brown for brief discussion.
Representative Stein asked how many Administrative Law Judges are currently working for the Department. Commissioner Thompson stated that there were two Administrative Law Judges that are full time and they have others that are contracted on a part time or as needed basis.
Representative Stein also asked if prescription drugs not being in their proper container was still an offense. Commissioner Thompson stated that this was still an offense.
Representative Stein asked how the state got in the complicated situation it is in with the penal code and further stated that if something is not done about the idea of “lock them up and throw away the key,” that it is only going to get worse. She further indicated that with this idealism, jails are becoming more crowded and the Commonwealth is less able to treat the offenders as they should because of overcrowding.
Representative Stein asked how many offenders have life sentences without the possibility of parole. Secretary Brown stated that out of approximately 21,600 offenders, there are about 103 offenders with life sentences and no possibility of parole. Representative Stein stated that the Commonwealth owes it to its citizens to ensure that the rest of the offenders are not worse off when they are released than they were when they were committed because of conditions in the jails including overcrowding.
Representative Webb thanked Secretary Brown for the revitalization of the Justice Council. She further stated that discussions by members of The Council concerning the enhancement of penalties for certain offenses would increase prison time and would have the opposite fiscal impact of the nature of what the subcommittee intends to do. Representative Webb stated that that worries her in these economic times.
Representative Webb stated that the Administrative Office of the Courts and Department of Corrections data snapshot of the prison population that was discussed earlier in the meeting was a wonderful idea. She stated that she does not want to see the focus primarily on urban areas, like it has been in the past. She stated that what tends to happen is that first-time offenders in rural areas, such as her district, are more likely than similar first-time offenders in urban areas to end up in prison.
Commissioner Thompson spoke to the Committee concerning the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) numbers and the educational program funding that is being provided for the offenders.
Representative Yonts asked if he was correct in summarizing what the Commissioner stated to the committee by stating that KCTCS is receiving the funds for the program but does not provide the service that is appropriate for the clientele. Commissioner Thompson stated that that was correct. Representative Yonts stated that the same problem had occurred when the funding was received by the University of Kentucky.
Representative Webb asked about accountability. Commissioner Thompson stated that there is very little accountability, but he is very receptive and has corresponded with the Department. She further stated that there are currently 26 vacant KCTCS teaching positions within the Corrections Department, but she understands that KCTCS took a budget cut as well.
Representative Webb stated that she would like for staff to request from KCTCS a summary of distribution of the monies allocated for the specific program. She further stated that she receives concerns from educations, and inmates and even inmates families concerning curriculum issues. She also stated that she would like to see a centralized curriculum take place and more accountability for the program.
Chairman Crenshaw asked Commissioner Thompson to refer to earlier discussion on what KCTCS is or is not doing as far as the program is concerned. He asked where the requirements of the program are found. Commissioner Thompson stated that she believes it is in a statute and not the budget bill as had been suggested. Chairman Crenshaw stated that he is trying to identify what changes are needed to better meet the needs of inmates in the prison system.
Representative Edmonds stated that he has served on the Hazard Community College Board of Trustees and he is glad that Commissioner Thompson stated that other agencies are offering some academic work to inmates that would be outside of KCTCS. He further stated that if there is a statute that limits them from doing so, he would like to encourage the committee to look into the statute and possibly change it in order to give some leeway to the program.
Representative Edmonds further indicated that he questions the curriculum. He stated that he is unsure of how much English 101 or 102 a welder would need, for example, and wonders if the curriculum should be changed. He also stated that there are several jobs people could acquire now in the coal and technical industry that may not need as much academic education as some people believe.
Representative Yonts asked if the Commissioner is requesting that the money that goes to KCTCS be redirected to the Department of Corrections’ next budget in order to implement their own educational program and for them to receive their own certifications. Commissioner Thompson stated that that was correct. Representative Yonts stated that if the Commissioner would provide him a list of bullet points for where exactly the program and Department are aiming and the KRS numbers, he would file the bill for them. Commissioner Thompson thanked Representative Yonts.
Representative Edmonds stated that he would like to be a co-sponsor of that bill.
Representative Webb stated that she read an article in the paper concerning the Barren County Jail ventilation system and would like to be updated on the situation. Commissioner Thompson stated that the situation is that there is a requirement for an outside contractor to come in and test the air filtration systems and the smoke removal systems. She stated that when they tested the system it did not remove enough smoke and that the inmates and the staff would not be safe if there were a fire. The courts are scheduled to meet within the week to determine if they would like to correct the currently existing system or purchase a new system.
Mr. Ronald Haws, Commissioner of the Department for Juvenile Justice, approached the committee and provided an update on the status of Laurel Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
Representative Webb asked if employees from the Finance Cabinet could approach the committee. Mr. Paul Gannoe, Director of the Division of Engineering and Contract Administration and Mr. Jerry Graves, Deputy Commissioner of the Finance and Administration Cabinet approached the committee. Representative Webb asked for a financial update on the status of the building and litigation about the detention center and a possible timeframe of resolution.
Mr. Gannoe stated that when the building issues were first noticed, the Department of Juvenile Justice started working with the architect, engineering team and contractor towards a resolution. He stated that the Justice Cabinet filed suit against the architect and engineering firm and named the contractor and geotechnical engineer primarily because the issues related to poor sub-surface soil and compaction. Mr. Gannoe stated that to date, there has been a ruling by the Franklin Circuit Judge that stated that the Commonwealth had to enter into mediation within 90 days of the ruling. He indicated that the ruling was three to four weeks. He declared that the Commonwealth has been monitoring the building to see if it is still settling. Mr. Gannoe indicated that they have hired a design team to provide a fix and that the design is close to being finished.
Representative Webb asked if the cost estimate was the figure of $1.3 million that was presented to the committee earlier. Mr. Gannoe indicated the estimate given includes the fix, but that it also includes the cost of some equipment replacement that is needed. He further stated that the structure-fix estimate was approximately $600,000 of the $1.3 million.
Commissioner Haws addressed the committee concerning a possible expansion of the Owensboro Treatment Center.
Representative Webb asked if there would be any programmatic change or cost shifting for the program if the expansion were to occur. Commissioner Haws stated that there would be no changes other than the relocation of the day treatment center.
Representative Webb asked what would be done with the individuals that would not be served through the change in location. Commissioner Haws stated that the 10 youths that would not be able to be provided for would be treated by their local school district. Representative Webb asked if it would be a cost shift back to the Department of Education for those individuals. Commissioner Haws stated that that was correct.
Representative Webb asked about the status of federal funds. Commissioner Haws stated that as far as federal funds go, they are having difficulty in receiving part of the targeted-case management money. He further stated that this was because the company that the State contracts with is having difficulty with its computerized program that allows the money to be sent. He further stated that they have received only one payment in the budget cycle, which is a concern for them. Representative Webb also asked about the female population within the prisons. Commissioner Haws stated that the female population is increasing. Representative Webb asked if there is adequate capacity for the female population. Commissioner Haws stated that there was.
Chairman Crenshaw referred to the statement made by Commissioner Haws concerning the Daviess County educational system providing the services for the treatment center. He asked if they were willing to provide the service at no additional cost. Commissioner Haws stated that currently they are asking for approximately double what it currently costs for the program. He further stated that the recommendation to Daviess County is that they pay them at the same rate they pay others for those services.
Chairman Crenshaw asked if the proposed expansion would apply to sex offenders. Commissioner Haws stated that presently there are enough sex offender beds and there is no need for the day treatment center to include sex offenders.
Representative Edmonds asked how many boot camp programs are operating in the state. Commissioner Haws responded that there is one boot camp currently and it is in Breathitt County. Representative Edmonds stated that both the boot camp and the Juvenile Detention Center in Breathitt County are approximately a mile from his home. He asked if both of those programs were financially sound. Commissioner Haws stated that they were. Representative Edmonds stated that the church of which he is a member allows the boot camp to use its gym when the weather does not permit outside activities. He indicated that he has spent a significant amount of time around some of the youths in those programs and he is proud of the operation and is pleased with its current success.
Chairman Crenshaw adjourned the meeting at 11:38 A.M.