The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Friday, September 21, 2007, at 8:00 AM, at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pee Wee Valley. Representative Kathy W. Stein, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the roll was called.
Members:Senator Robert Stivers II, Co-Chair; Representative Kathy W. Stein, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark and Jack Westwood; Representatives Joseph M. Fischer, Derrick Graham, Darryl T. Owens, Frank Rasche, Arnold Simpson, Robin L. Webb, Rob Wilkey, and Brent Yonts.
Guests: Norman Arflack, Secretary, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Teresa Barton, Deputy Secretary, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Ken Schwendeman, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Chuck Masarone, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Commissioner John D. Rees, Department of Corrections; Deputy Commissioner of Adult Institutions James M. Schomig, Department of Corrections; Lisa Lamb, Director of Communications, Department of Corrections; and Warden Cookie Crews, Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women.
LRC Staff: Norman W. Lawson, Jr., Joanna Decker, Jon Grate, and Ashley Smalley.
The meeting was called to order by Co-Chair, Representative Kathy Stein in the visiting room of the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women at Pee Wee Valley, KY.
The first speaker was Warden Cookie Crews of the Kentucky Correctional Institution for women who welcomed the committee members to the facility. The warden indicated that the institution held 700 women, one of whom was on death row, and 47 of whom were pregnant. Warden Crews indicated that there was a staff of 223.
Representative Stein asked if there had been an increase in the number of inmates and what were the primary causes of an increase. Warden Crews responded that in 1984 there were 100 inmates while there are 700 now. Representative Simpson asked when the first building was built. Warden Crews responded that it was built in 1938 and is still in use. Representative Owens asked if there was a continuing upward trend in the incarceration of females to which Warden Crews responded, yes. Representative Stein asked if substance abuse was a major factor in increasing numbers of incarcerations to which Warden Crews responded, yes.
Senator Stivers asked if most of the mothers who gave birth in the institution were unwed to which Warden Crews responded, yes. Senator Stivers then asked where the children born to inmates went. Warden Crews responded that some of the children went to relatives of the inmate, some went to the Galilean Children's Home at Liberty, KY, and others went to various social services agencies. Warden Crews indicated that it was the woman's choice. Representative Graham asked if the women received counseling with regard to their pregnancy. Warden Crews responded that there is an extensive counseling and prenatal care program as well as a parenting program for inmates. The parenting classes are taught by a nurse from Indiana University. Warden Crews indicated that prior to placement of a child with relatives or others that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Social Services workers do home placement checks and approve or disapprove the potential placements. Representative Stein asked how long the mother got to keep the infant after birth. Warden Crews responded that the pregnant inmates are transported to two local hospitals and remain with the child only a short time after the child's birth. After that three, four hour "bonding visits" at the institution are permitted at one week intervals.
Commissioner Rees thanked the committee members for visiting the institutions and listening to the needs of the department with regard to the institutions and the department's programs. Commissioner Rees also indicated that the department provides pregnancy testing kits to each local jail that houses female state prisoners. Commissioner Rees further indicated that when either a state inmate in a local jail or a local inmate becomes pregnant that they are transferred to state custody for the period of the pregnancy and the birth to promote better prenatal care. Under 2007 House Bill 191, the transfer of a local inmate to state custody during pregnancy is considered as a "catastrophic" illness and at that point all medical expenses are paid by the state through the birth of the child and the return of the mother to the local jail.
Representative Stein reminded the committee members that the next meeting of the Committee will be held on October 19, at the Robert Stephens Circuit Court House in Lexington, Kentucky and that the meeting will begin at 9:00AM rather than the usual 10:00AM. Representative Stein indicated that she is attempting to secure parking space in the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government lot at the court house.
Senator Stivers indicated that a conflict has developed regarding the time of the November meeting with its scheduled tour of Eddyville Penitentiary and the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex and that he would be notifying members as to the new date following approval by the Legislative Research Commission.
Senator Stivers asked Commissioner Rees if there was a better way to handle an inmate mother's bonding with her child for a longer period following birth. Commissioner Rees indicated that some states, including Indiana, have programs where the child is brought back to the institution to stay with the mother for some time after birth, however this takes extra room and a specialized facility. Commissioner Rees indicated that there is no room at KCIW for such a program and no funds to construct a facility. Commissioner Rees announced that the department is considering renovation of the old hospital at the Northpoint correctional facility to house a 300 bed drug rehabilitation and treatment program for women.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:45PM.