Private prison proposals

House Bill 303 is a bad piece of legislation that must be defeated in our state legislature.

Under a budget passed by the House, three private prisons in Lee, Marion and Floyd counties would be recommissioned. If passed, the bill would have a devastating effect on a number of Kentucky’s jails.

The bill calls for the transition of at least 650 state inmates to private prisons by 2017 and an additional 750 state inmates transitioned by July 1, 2017, with a total of 2,327 prisoners being moved to private facilities by June 30, 2018.

This is a horrible idea for a number of reasons.

The most important argument against the proposal is that it would be an economic hardship on counties. The state currently pays county jails a daily fee to house state prisoners, some of whom are Class D felons. If this legislation passes, it would deal many counties in the state a huge economic blow.

In Warren County, if HB 303 becomes law, it is estimated that there would be a $1.6 million revenue loss because many prisoners in our county’s jail would be sent to private facilities. The state could pay $12 to $20 more per inmate by some estimates than they pay the county jails. Each of the 74 Kentucky counties with a full-service jail would suffer indirect losses, in addition to decreased payments from the state.

Many county jails operate on very tight budgets as it is, so if this becomes law, some could potentially be in real financial trouble.

That is why we can’t allow this to become law.

Another reason this needs to be voted down is that Class D felons, who make up the bulk of inmates employed in work programs, would be taken out of Kentucky’s full-service jails.

If this bill becomes law, each county that uses inmates for labor — as Warren and Simpson counties do, along with many others — would have to hire workers to handle duties that inmates normally perform. In some cases, the work would just go undone.

Hiring workers would be another blow to counties because they are using money that could have been used elsewhere. In essence, it would increase the cost of labor for county government departments.

This legislation is just an all-around bad idea. It would put an undue burden on counties that would be affected financially, and it would take away labor that is needed to clean our parks and roads, mowing the grass and collecting litter. It could also be more expensive for the state.

While time is running out, there is hope in the Senate, where they have put an amendment into the bill that leaves out the passage related to recommissioning the private prisons.

The Senate got it right on this issue and hopefully will prevail.

But this is too important of an issue to ignore, so we urge our readers who agree that this bill needs to be defeated to reach out to your state legislators and urge them to vote against this misguided legislation.

Bowling Green Daily News

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