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The Kentucky Association of Counties

Financial help is on the way for county jails

By Gracie Lagadinos, Government Affairs Associate
At the last minute, lawmakers amended legislation to allocate millions of dollars to county jails devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

County jails are overcrowded, and the costs of incarceration have continued to climb. From 2011-19, the jail total population in Kentucky grew by about 2 percent. Over the same period, county jail populations grew by more than 30 percent, having a significant impact on county budgets. Nearly half of county officials in a 2020 KACo poll said that jail costs are the biggest pressure on their budgets.

In the final hours Tuesday night, HB556 was amended to allot American Rescue Plan Act dollars to county jails, including $30 million for performance-based funding in local jails from FY21-22 through FY 23-24, a $2 per day per diem increase during the declared COVID-19 state of emergency and $14.7 million to provide technology upgrades for virtual hearing equipment between county jails and courts. 

County Jail Relief - HB556 Rep. Danny Bentley 

Allocates $30 million of the state’s portion of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for performance-based funding in local jails for FY21-22 and through FY 23-24 and a per diem increase during the declared COVID-19 state emergency.

  • Performance-Based Funding
    • For every Department of Corrections (DOC)-approved program completed that resulted in the issuance of a 90-day sentencing credit, a payment of $1,000 shall be made;
    • For every DOC-approved program completed that resulted in the issuance of a 60-day sentencing credit, a payment of $600 shall be made; and;
    • For every DOC-approved program completed that resulted in the issuance of a 30-day sentencing credit, a payment of $300 shall be made.
    • Applies retroactively to July 1, 2018.
    • The per diem amount paid to the jail shall be increased by $2 per day of program attendance for those enrolled in and attending evidence-based programs approved by the department and do not require instructors to complete any postsecondary education.
    • The per diem amount paid to the jail shall be increased $10 per day of program attendance for those enrolled in and attending evidence-based programs approved by the department and requiring instructors to have completed particular postsecondary courses.
  • COVID-19 Per Diem Increase 
    • Allocates $6,173,600 in FY 20-21 and $5,934,200 in FY 21-22 to the Community Services and Local Facilities budget unit to provide a $2 per day, per state inmate per diem.
    • The funds appropriated shall be retroactively paid to county jails that have housed state inmates in FY 20-21 since the initial emergency declaration was issued and shall continue to be paid in FY 21-22 for the duration of COVID-19-related emergency declarations under the provisions of KRS Chapter 39A.
  • $37 million COVID-19 Spread Mitigation
    • Allocates $37 million in FY 21-22 to the Justice Administration budget unit to provide grants to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in congregate or vulnerable population settings.
  • $14.7 million Virtual Court Appearance 
    • Appropriates $14.7 million in FY 21-22 to the Court Operations and Administration budget unit to provide technology upgrades for virtual hearing equipment between county jails and courts.

In addition to the additional funding available to county jails, several criminal justice reform bills were passed including providing services to inmates returning to the workforce and pregnant inmates, legislation targeting substance use disorders treatment and prevention and jail safety. 

Criminal Justice

HB497 Rep. Kim Moser

  • Requires the DOC to give released prisoners documentation of their criminal history, institutional history, other relevant information, and a certificate of employability.
  • Requires DOC to assist prisoners with writing resumes.
  • Create a new section of KRS Chapter 205 to require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to prioritize the provision of Medicaid benefits to prisoners 30 days before release upon receipt of a Medicaid Section 1115 waiver.

SB84 Sen. Adams

  • Establishes restrictive housing and medical observation of inmates who are pregnant or in the immediate postpartum period.
  • Create a new section of KRS Chapter 196 to establish notice of availability and access to applicable community-based programs and social workers.
  • Requires an annual restricted housing report be filed with the Legislative Research Commission.

Substance use disorder treatment and prevention

HB7 Rep. Adam Bowling

  • Establishes an advisory council with statewide members, including a representative from KACo.
  • The council will focus on drug use prevention, treatment and recovery in local communities.

SJR59 Sen. Ralph Alvarado 

  • Requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create an advisory committee to establish a pilot program to investigate funding mechanisms for a diversion program for those with substance use disorder and who have been arrested for substance use disorder-related offenses.
  • Establishes that the pilot program shall start by July 1, 2022.
  • Requires a status report related to the pilot program development that is due Dec. 31, 2021.

Jail safety

SB140 Sen. Robby Mills

  • Helps reduce contraband mailed into county jails by requiring U.S. mail to be converted to an electronic format and a means for prisoners to receive correspondence from the court, attorneys or a public official via email.
Kentucky Association of Counties
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