It seems that in every session of the General Assembly, there is at least one bill that is so amazingly bad that the only reason for it to even be introduced is to give politicians something to run on in the fall.
This year’s House Bill 5, the so-called “Safer Kentucky Act,” is such a bill.
The 74-page (!) bill is supposedly an omnibus criminal justice bill. Instead, it actually is a collection of misguided, irresponsible, and downright hate-full policies that will take our state dramatically backward.
Here is a list of worst “features” of this trainwreck of a bill:
- It puts homeless people in jail, just for being homeless. The bill starts with fining a homeless person up to $250 simply for sleeping in public or “camping” in public places. Of course – why didn’t we think of this sooner? Obviously, the best way to deal with people who cannot afford somewhere to live is to have them pay a fine with money they already don’t have. And if they don’t pay? They could wind up in jail. (“That’ll show ‘em!”)
Homelessness is a problem – we get it. But there are proven ways to deal with it, and fines and jail are not among them. The only reason to put this in the bill is to show you are “tough on the homeless.” What brave legislators you are!
- It will make our overdose problem worse, not better. Increasing the penalties for possession means that persons witnessing an overdose will NOT call for help, as they don’t want to get caught up in the resulting legal mess. And, people who might seek treatment will NOT do so, again because they are fearful of going to jail. MORE people will die of overdoses because of this bill.
- It turns renters into felons. The bill lowers the threshold for “felony vandalism” to include damages that renters do to rental property. Renters already pay security deposits to cover such damages. Turning them into felons is unnecessary, and is another win for the incarceration industry.
- It uses outdated policies that have been proven not to work. The bill’s sponsors say that putting more people in jail and prison will lower the crime rate. If that were true, Kentucky would have the lowest crime rate in the United State, since we already put more people behind bars than any democratic country on earth. Obviously, increasing penalties and putting even more people behind bars is NOT the right idea.
- It will actually damage our state financially. Beyond the cost to human lives outlined above, this bill would dramatically increase what our state spends on dealing with crime. More trials, more courtrooms, more jails and prisons, more guards – more of everything in the criminal justice system. And for what? For some politician to say they were “tough on crime.”
Any one of the above problems should be enough to kill this bill. All of them together should cause the Kentucky Senate to stuff this bill into the nearest trash receptacle and never mention it again.
If you want to stop this collection of bad ideas and worse policies, call the Legislative Comment Line at (800) 372-7181 and leave a message for your senator — or for all senators — to tell them to vote against House Bill 5.