Saturday, January 28, 2023

Play

A critical number of rural IA nursing homes close; TX lawmakers consider measures to restrict, and expand voting in 2023 Session; and CT groups, and unions call for public-health reforms.

Play

Attorney General announces enforcement actions on ransomware, Democrats discuss border policies, and the FDA is relaxing rules for gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

Play

"Brain Gain?" Research shows rural population is actually growing, especially in recreational areas; other small towns are having success offering relocation incentives like free building lots, cash, complimentary dinners and even internet credits; and researchers say the key is flexibility and creativity.

KY Experts: Increasing Fentanyl Penalties Doesn’t Address Overdose Crisis

Play

Tuesday, March 15, 2022   

Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase criminal penalties for fentanyl distribution.

But critics say the legislation will only result in people being locked up for longer amounts of time and doesn't include any measures to address the state's overdose crisis.

House Bill 215 passed the House yesterday and now heads to the Senate. It would require individuals convicted of aggravated trafficking or importing of fentanyl to serve at least 85% of their sentence before being eligible for release, and prohibits pre-trial diversion.

Carmen Mitchell - criminal justice policy researcher with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy - explained that it can be challenging in practice to differentiate between importing and possession, and could result in harsher sentences for people who use drugs but have never sold them.

"So there's a lot of discretion with system actors to decide what to charge people with
based on the context," said Mitchell.

She said research shows that as long as demand is high, incarcerating more people for selling drugs does not reduce the supply of drugs or make communities safer.

Under current Kentucky law - people who are convicted of aggravated trafficking of carfentanil, fentanyl, or fentanyl derivatives can be sentenced to between ten to 20 years in prison and must serve at least half of their sentence before being eligible for release.

She added that extending sentences for fentanyl also can potentially exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, pointing to a 2020 report that found 75% of people serving federal sentences for trafficking fentanyl were people of color.

"And so we know that unfortunately, from the start," said Mitchell, "Black people tend to be charged with the higher, harsher sentences like trafficking and aggravated trafficking."

Mitchell said she believes lawmakers should focus instead on expanding access to mental and behavioral health treatment.

"Kentucky is in the midst of a very serious overdose crisis," said Mitchell. "We stay around the top 10 nationally of all states for overdose fatalities, and it's a very serious problem that continues year after year."

Nationwide, drug overdoses have hit record levels. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 100,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2021 - up almost 30% from the 78,000 deaths in the prior year.



Disclosure: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Criminal Justice, Education, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


get more stories like this via email
New data show in California, 2021-22 state testing scores are even lower than the state's historically low testing scores. (Rawpixel/Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

Many of California's 13.5 million children and teens have not bounced back after the pandemic, especially children of color, according to the just-…


Social Issues

Americans continue to report low trust in mainstream media, with many younger than 30 saying they trust information from social media nearly as much …

Social Issues

A Minnesota House committee heard testimony Thursday about the governor's proposed spending plan for education. As these talks unfold, public polling …


From February 2020 to November 2021, the number of workers in nursing homes and other care facilities dropped by 410,000 nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Adobe Stock)

Health and Wellness

Health-care professionals say low pay and a worker shortage have led a dramatic number of nursing homes in rural Iowa to close their doors. They hope …

Health and Wellness

Health-care professionals and advocates in Connecticut have said it will take sweeping reforms to bolster the state's flailing public health system…

In a national survey, Michigan was ranked 27th among the 50 states for its cost, access and quality of long-term care supports and services. California was ranked first. (Flickr)

Social Issues

In her fifth State of the State address this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized policies designed to put more money in Michiganders' pockets…

Social Issues

By nearly every measure, voter fraud in U.S. elections is rare, but that isn't stopping the Texas Legislature from considering dozens of bills this …

Social Issues

A Republican-sponsored bill in the Arkansas Legislature would make it illegal to circulate petitions at or near polling places during elections…

 

Phone: 303.448.9105 Toll Free: 888.891.9416 Fax: 208.247.1830 Your trusted member- and audience-supported news source since 1996 Copyright 2021