FRANKFORT, KY (March 8, 2023) – Senator Adrienne Southworth has filed SB 259 to repeal a law that was denounced by the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1987. As the youngest member of the senate, KRS 532.055 has been operationally functioning, albeit on life support, her whole lifetime.
This bill was first born before Southworth ever started visiting Frankfort regularly, when she received a call from a friend’s dad that her friend had been taken to prison for 26 years to serve a 13 year sentence. At the time, the sentence was longer than she had been alive. In all her years of public service, Southworth has continually encountered issues that can be traced to the sentencing process. “Although I have researched and served in other areas of the criminal justice system, my belief is that sentencing is the single most effective way to start solving the massively out of control system we call criminal justice. As many of the folks I have worked with can verify, there is a lack of justice about it, which leaves it just criminal,” Southworth says.
Southworth’s same friend, Wesley Anglin, of Hardin County, is now on the outside and able to help directly in this effort. “In over a decade of study after unfortunately first-hand experience, I have found KRS 532.055 to be a cancer on the constitutional rights of all Kentuckians. Reading the late Justice Leibson’s critiques have exposed the source of the problem and it’s time we fully repeal it.”
Senate Bill 259 repeals KRS 532.055, which has been termed “truth in sentencing” since its inception. In Commonwealth v. Reneer (1987), the Kentucky Supreme Court called it an encroachment, but then Justice Leibson identified it in his dissent as unconstitutional and abusive. In a series of cases, including Huff v. Commonwealth (1988), Commonwealth v. Hubbard (1989), and Boone v. Commonwealth (1989), Justice Leibson articulated his chapters in what he termed “a book with an unhappy ending.”
What Justice Leibson described as the state of affairs at that time could have been written today: “It takes no visionary to foretell that the new sentencing procedure will:
- Produce sentences that are, in many cases, unduly harsh and abusive
- Fatally overload an already overcrowded prison system
- Exacerbate the problem of disparate sentencing
The impending calamity to our sentencing system (it will be no less) is not just likely, it is inevitable. It will take years of effort to correct the mischief we have done this day, if indeed correction will ever be possible. The Majority opines that we ‘reserve the right to correct in the future’ any ‘abuses or injustices,’ but correction will come too little and too late for those who suffer in the meantime.” Commonwealth v. Reneer, 734 S.W.2d 794, 799 (1987) (Leibson, J., dissenting).
Senator Adrienne Southworth represents the 7th Senate district, including Anderson, Henry, Shelby, and southeast Jefferson counties. Updates on the progress of SB 259 and all other bills are located at legislature.ky.gov.
Legislative Research Commission
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