In 1976, Kentucky passed legislation that abolished commercial bail bondsmen operating in the commonwealth. For many, this was seen as a positive move forward. Based on what’s being said now about eliminating money bail, one would think Kentucky is now – over 40 years after passing the legislation – a utopia the likes of which other states can only dream.
Why, then, is Kentucky STILL discussing bail reform? Surely if the bail bonds industry was the problem, 40 years of Kentucky policy would have corrected whatever latent defects remained in the system, right? Well…maybe not.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
Kentucky now has the ninth-highest incarceration rate in the United States, up two spots from the last ranking. The female incarceration rate is more than two times the national average and now stands at the second-highest in America, compared with fifth in the previous ranking. Kentucky also ranks second-highest among states and nearly double the national rate of children who have experienced parental incarceration. In July, 73 percent of Kentucky jails were at or over capacity and close to 10 jails were at or over 200 percent capacity.
Big Spending on Corrections
Kentucky is set to spend nearly $700 million in “corrections” in 2019, and it is expected that jails in the state will run out of room soon. Meanwhile, other states are reducing incarceration rates. It seems that, in Kentucky at least, there’s a direct, positive correlation between high incarceration rates and the absence of bail bondsmen.
Pretrial Release Mechanisms
Despite the absence of bail bondsmen, bail still exists in Kentucky – defendants pay the amount to the courts instead of to private parties. Yet between 2012 and 2016, the use of monetary bail in district court for low-risk defendants grew from 22 percent to 31 percent. Do the courts just want the money?