March 6, 2023 4:08pm
Bill reforming persistent felony offender law considered in KY Senate
A bill reforming Kentucky’s persistent felony offender (PFO) laws passed the Senate Judiciary committee last week. Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Storm (R-London), narrowly reforms current laws to reduce mandatory enhancement sentencing for certain non-violent offenders.
PFO laws provide prosecutors with the option of enhanced sentencing for a person convicted of a felony if they have previously been convicted of any felony offense. While the law was originally intended to deter crime and target major criminals, the application has resulted in more Kentuckians being locked up for longer periods of time, often for lower-level and non-violent offenses. This has contributed to Kentucky’s having one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.
SB 225 narrowly reforms the PFO laws in the following ways:
- Eliminates PFO enhancements for Class D felonies, which is the lowest level felony and includes many drug use crimes.
- Creates exemptions for drug-related felonies where substance use disorder is a factor.
- Closes the eligibility window for individuals with completed sentences.
- Removes mandatory sentences from non-violent Class C offenses.
Another important step in this legislation makes PFO enhancement discretionary with the judge or jury instead of making it mandatory if the prosecutor pursues it.
With GLI’s support, the General Assembly has passed several important bills in recent session to reform Kentucky’s criminal justice system including improving criminal records expungement, parole processes, and raising the threshold for felony theft charges. Criminal justice reform is central to addressing policies that have led to overincarceration and contributed to workforce challenges for Kentucky employees.