Decades ago, young people living in Kentucky and elsewhere in the U.S. were much less likely to be arrested before the age of 26 than they are today, according to a new study. The study was conducted by the RAND Corporation and published in the journal Crime & Delinquency.
>Jury selection in Kentucky involves the careful evaluation of potential jurors. The defense and prosecution generally have differing priorities, and a judge must also consider whether someone could act appropriately as a juror. All parties will scrutinize the personal beliefs of jurors, and decisions to remove people from jury selection sometimes create legal controversies. In one out-of-state case, a defense attorney challenged a judge's dismissal of a potential juror for cause and received a decision from the state's highest court.
The recent passage of the FIRST STEP Act has been lauded by civil rights advocates as a welcome first step on the road toward a fairer and less discriminatory criminal justice system, but the federal law does not offer any relief to more than 2 million inmates of state prisons and jails in Kentucky and around the country. Much of the discussion over mass incarceration has focused on the disproportionately harsh sentences handed down to African-American defendants in narcotics cases, but most of the progress in this area has been made by local authorities exploring alternatives to prison.
A major prison reform bill is closer to becoming law after overwhelming support in the US Senate. If is becomes law, many federal prisoners in Kentucky may see an early release. The president is expected to sign the legislation.
The First Step Act continues to make progress within the U.S. Congress with bipartisan support. The bill contains a number of reforms to criminal sentencing guidelines and seeks to enforce existing rules that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has failed to observe. A prominent reform within the legislation would apply to prisoners in Kentucky and around the country who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses prior to 2010. If passed, the new law could allow people with long sentences to petition for early release.
Kentucky residents who commit a crime may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors generally carry sentences of no more than 12 months, and those sentences are typically served in a city or county jail. A felony is an offense that is considered especially serious such as murder, burglary or rape. If convicted, an individual may face more than a year in prison.
Cash bail is a hotly debated topic in Kentucky and across the country, especially as several studies have indicated that conscious or unconscious racial bias can play a major role in bail decisions. In one study, bail judges in Miami and Philadelphia were shown to have a bias against black defendants, including both white and black judges. The study found that black defendants were more likely than white defendants to be held in pretrial detention rather than given bail; pretrial detention has been shown to be linked to higher conviction rates.
Kentucky residents want to believe the criminal justice system never makes mistakes. Unfortunately, that's not the case. According to the Innocence Project, the eyewitness identification process used by many police departments is unreliable. Witnesses can be influenced by things like the instructions they receive, their interactions with police officers and even the suspect's race. As a result, many people have been misidentified and wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit.
Exonerations for wrongful convictions in murder cases through DNA evidence have been a big news story for the last few years. In other cases, new evidence can appear, or old witnesses can withdraw their testimony. The end result is that a significant number of Kentucky inmates are ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.