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Kentucky House Passes Crime Bill Imposing Tougher Sentences

The Kentucky House passed criminal justice legislation on Thursday that would impose tougher sentences, including a “three-strikes” penalty to lock up felons for the rest of their lives after committing a third violent offense. The legislation, a priority for the Republican-dominated chamber, would bring many changes to the Bluegrass State’s criminal code, the Associated Press reports. Oner key section aims to crack down on the prevalence of fentanyl with harsher penalties when its distribution results in fatal overdoses. Other parts of the bill would create a standalone carjacking law with enhanced penalties and make killing a first responder in the line of duty eligible for the death penalty. It would require violent offenders to serve most of their sentences before becoming eligible for release. And it would ban street camping and give local governments power to designate temporary camping locations for the homeless. The measure cleared the House on a 74-22 vote and advances to the GOP-led Senate.

Supporters portrayed the measure as an overdue policy shift that does more to hold criminals accountable and to make communities safer. “With this bill, House Bill 5, we are reasserting some basic and simple truths,” said Republican Rep. Jared Bauman, the lead sponsor. “That there is a right and wrong, and that criminals are accountable for their actions, not society. And that society has the right to protect itself from the criminal element.” Opponents said the bill would put more people behind bars in a state that already has a high incarceration rate without fully knowing the additional costs from higher inmate populations. The bill fails to delve into the root causes leading to criminal activity and overreached with its many provisions, they said. A key component of the bill is its three-strikes provision. People convicted of three violent felonies would face life in prison. However, opponents questioned its effectiveness as a deterrent. Republican Rep. John Blanton had an answer: “If someone has committed three violent crimes and they’re incarcerated and can’t get back out, they’re not going to commit another violent crime. That’s a fact.” The additional tougher penalties in the bill cover a range of offenses, from vandalism to attempted murder.


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