Call to Order and Roll Call
The5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Friday, October 5, 2012, at 10:00 AM, at the Kentucky State Police Central Forensic Laboratory, Frankfort KY. Senator Tom Jensen, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, Brandon Smith, Katie Stine, and Robert Stivers II; Representatives Johnny Bell, Joseph M. Fischer, Kelly Flood, Sara Beth Gregory, Joni L. Jenkins, Stan Lee, Mary Lou Marzian, Michael J. Nemes, Tom Riner, and Brent Yonts.
The minutes of the September 7, 2012 meeting were approved without objection.
The Resurgence of Heroin in Kentucky
Colonel Spike Jones, Chief of Police, Covington, discussed the increase in heroin problems in Northern Kentucky. Coinciding with that is increased incidence of copper and metal theft, and prostitution directly tied to heroin addiction. He said his officers are finding heroin users passed out with needles in their arms with children in the back seat. Heroin users differ from crack users, who buy and sell crack to support their habit, whereas heroin users use all the heroin they buy to support their own addiction. Heroin addicts are not homeless, but rather have jobs and families. Many are addicted to prescription painkillers. House Bill 1, passed in the 2012 General Assembly, makes it much harder to get prescription drugs legally, and their street price is increasing. People are turning to heroin as a less expensive and more readily available alternative. In response to a question from Senator Stine about legislation to address this problem, Colonel Jones said while arresting and jailing heroin users is a necessary tool to protect the public, the users cannot overcome their addiction without successful treatment programs.
Van Ingram, Office of Drug Control Policy, agreed that heroin use and addiction are increasing statewide. Eighty heroin overdose deaths have been reported through September 18, 2012. He attributed this increase to the low price of heroin, easy availability, perception of low risk, and public opinion. The DEA is reporting increases of black tar heroin sold by Mexican drug cartels. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were public service announcements to educate the public about the dangers of heroin use, but today’s young people have never been exposed to that kind of public education effort. The medical community needs to be educated to recognize heroin addiction and learn how to make referrals to treatment programs, which are limited at this time. He agreed with Colonel Jones that heroin addicts are not homeless junkies living in a warehouse, but are people with jobs and families, many who are addicted to opiates, and who choose heroin as the next drug of choice.
Senator Schickel commended Colonel Jones for his distinguished service to northern Kentucky and noted that he is a former president of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police. He looks forward to working with him to address heroin addiction problems in northern Kentucky.
In response to a question from Representative Jenkins about existing treatment programs for heroin addiction, Colonel Jones said Probation and Parole in northern Kentucky told him there is a waiting list for placement. Representative Jenkins said the Department of Corrections’ budget is also impacted as more inmates need treatment for heroin addiction. Mr. Ingram said they are seeing increased cases of Hepatitis C and HIV from needle sharing. Colonel Jones said heroin use endangers law enforcement from needle sticks and increases workers’ compensation claims.
Karen Hascal, The Healing Place, said her organization offers long-term residential treatment programs across the state to approximately 600 people, including those addicted to heroin. Ashley, a 26-year old resident, told the task force about her successful recovery from opiate addiction at The Healing Place, where she has lived for about a year. She credited the Healing Place for saving her life and teaching her how to be a good person and a good employee. If she had gone to jail and been released without treatment, she would have returned to drugs right away. Long-term residential treatment gave her the tools she needs to be successful. The Healing Place helped her get a job at Our Lady of Peace, so she can restart her life. In response to a question from Senator Jensen, she said she started drinking as a teenager, then began smoking marijuana, was in a car wreck and received pain pills for an injury which she then began abusing, and became addicted to prescription painkillers.
In response to a question from Senator Stine, Ms. Hascal said addiction alters brain chemistry, and it takes nine to twelve months to rewire the brain, learn good decision making skills, and practice those new skills under supervision. Women who are heroin addicts have more heart problems, arrhythmias, and hepatitis C from needle sharing. In response to a question from Representative Bell about seeking a job with a felony record, Ashley said The Healing Place offers a three-month aftercare program, where residents mentor new clients, sharing their experience, strength and hope, and help them to successfully complete treatment. Our Lady of Peace is aware of her history and is willing to give her a chance to prove she can be a good employee. Ms. Hascal said The Healing Place works with the corporate community to show that recovering addicts can be successful employees, and The Healing Place urges clients to be completely honest with prospective employers. A criminal record is a huge barrier to employment, and failure leads many clients right back into addiction. They need to be able to support themselves and their families. Ashley said she has learned a new way of living and how to apply her new life skills, but realizes her recovery will last a lifetime.
Representative Tilley said he visited The Healing Place with the House Bill 1 Oversight Committee and was very impressed. Recover Kentucky operates ten centers across the state, and the centers have added treatment beds since passage of House Bill 463. Faith-based treatment programs have been successful, and he hopes these programs will help address the unmet needs of citizens with addiction problems. House Bill 463 encourages deferred prosecution with treatment instead of jail time, which has saved the Department of Corrections an estimated $25 million since passage of the bill. There are many barriers to employment for persons with a felony record, and a number of professions prohibit licensure to persons with criminal records. Employers cannot find a qualified workforce. He said Senator Dan Kelly began the push for treatment instead of incarceration, and he urged expansion of available treatment programs across the state.
The State Crime Laboratory – an introduction to its leadership, functions, personnel, and role within the criminal justice system
Laura Sudkamp, Kentucky State Police Central Forensic Laboratory Manager, gave an overview of the central laboratory facility and the services it provides to law enforcement in Kentucky. There are six KSP laboratories with 131 employees across the state, providing forensic services free of charge to 450 law enforcement agencies in the areas of controlled substances, toxicology, trace, firearms and toolmarks, DNA casework, and the DNA database. The laboratories are funded by KSP general funds and restricted accounts, DUI service fees, DNA court fees, and federal grants, and processed about 38,000 cases in 2011. She reviewed the number of cases processed and the case backlog by section.
In response to a question from Senator Schickel about a high profile case in northern Kentucky that is awaiting DNA analysis by KSP, Ms. Sudkamp said the normal procedure is for the analyst to pull the oldest cases first, although cases are expedited if the court informs of a pending court date. However, sometimes the evidence presented does not have enough DNA to be tested, and KSP must wait for more evidence to be submitted, which backs the system up even further. KSP gives priority to homicide and sexual assault cases normally. Typical evidence used to be fingerprint analysis, but technology is more advanced today with more effective DNA testing. The biggest increases in cases worked are in the controlled substances and toxicology sections.
Jeremy Triplett, Supervisor, Controlled Substances Section, said his section provides chemical analysis of evidence from suspected drug crimes and clandestine laboratory analysis, with an average case turnaround of approximately 25 days. The number of heroin cases has increased significantly in the last three years. He thanked the committee for passage of House Bill 433 to address the bath salts problem in Kentucky.
Ryan Johnson, Supervisor, Toxicology Section, said his section provides chemical analysis of blood and urine samples to detect the presence of alcohol and a variety of drugs. The section analyzes 15,000 cases annually, including DUI, drug facilitated sexual assaults, accident investigations, and murder, assault and drug offenses. The most commonly detected drugs include marijuana and illegal drugs (mostly cocaine), and prescription drugs (mostly Xanax, Lortab, Oxycontin and Suboxone). He said many DUI cases also have marijuana in the bloodstream, with marijuana being almost as common as alcohol. The section has also seen a surge in the presence of Suboxone.
Jack Reid, Supervisor, Trace Section, said his section tests for gunshot residue, hairs, fibers, paint, lamp filaments and glass, arson, physical matches, and soil analysis. There is only one trace laboratory in the state, with six employees who are also trained as expert witnesses.
Matthew Clements, Supervisor, Firearms and Toolmarks Section, said his office differs from other sections because they rely on their powers of observation, training, and experience. His section provides firearms and toolmark identification, serial number restoration, muzzle to garment distance observations, and shoe and tire print identification. After evidence is received, most cases can be completed in about a week, but evidence may be held up in other sections with their own backlog, which affects the turnaround time.
Whitney Collins, Supervisor, DNA Casework Section, said her section provides serological analysis, bloodstain pattern analysis, DNA analysis, and entries to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) system. Most cases relate to murder and death investigations, sexual assault/sodomy, assault/kidnapping, robbery and arson. Violent crime analysis turnaround is about six to nine months, and property crime analysis is about nine to twelve months. Her caseload is about 2,500 annually, a 32 percent increase in the past five years, mostly related to increased property crimes. She discussed the difficulties of analyzing touch DNA samples because of the very small amount of contact and evidence presented for analysis. Her section needs more employees and equipment to maintain their turnaround time. She made recommendations for amending the statutes relating to post-conviction testing.
Stacy Warnecke, Supervisor, DNA Database Section, said her section conducts DNA testing of convicted felons and registered sex offenders, and enters their profiles into the CODIS system. CODIS has local, state and national levels, and they search and report matches to unsolved cases. The section receives about 12,000 cases annually, and the backlog is about 6,000 cases. She discussed the proposed arrestee database, with an estimated 42,000 arrestees and offenders, which will require additional personnel and equipment, and said estimating how much the system will cost is very difficult. She said the system will need a sustainable funding source as grant funds continue to decrease. Privacy protections are set forth in state and federal statutes, and expungement processes are in place if the DNA sample does not match the crime.
Senator Jensen thanked everyone for their informative presentations and for hosting the committee meeting at the facility. He told the members that Marylee Underwood, Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs was providing a packet of information relating to human trafficking, and extending an invitation to attend the Association’s conference in northern Kentucky in December.
The meeting adjourned at 12:45 p.m.