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Kentucky Newspaper Investigates 'Persistent Felony Offender' Law

Kentucky's "persistent felony offender" law (PFO) is a prime example of the types of “tough-on-crime” laws that have pushed the state's incarceration rate to one of the highest in the world, draining hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year for prisons and jails that are filled to dangerously high levels, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. The law is inequitably targeting Black people, who make up eight percent of Kentucky's population but 20 percent of its prisoners.

The newspaper says it will publish a series starting online Thursday on the controversy surrounding the four-decade-old PFO law that one law professor has called “easily the most lethal weapon in the state’s tough sentencing arsenal.” The investigation will detail how the law has strayed from its author's original intent, to the detriment of tens of thousands of Kentuckians and their families. The newspaper promises to tell the story of one family's generations-spanning battle with the forces that contribute to people's being tagged as a persistent felony offender, and the difficulties of reforming the law.