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Letcher convicts get early release



 Nearly 1,000 Kentucky convicts are walking out of prison early as part of changes in the state’s penal code. Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II said abouta dozen are from Letcher County, including Edward Morton, who was convicted in 2006 of reckless homicide and second-degree assault in connection with the death of an infant.

Morton, 46, of Thornton, had been in custody since Dec. 19, 2006. He was released Jan. 3. Morton was serving an 11-year sentence. Others identified as being from Letcher County who were released from prison Jan. 3 are:
• Dallas Fleming Jr. — first-degree bail jumping, third-degree burglary and theft by deception to include cold checks (more than $300). Fleming, 36, of McRoberts, had
been in prison since March 12, 2008 and was serving a six-year sentence.
• Timothy Neil Jent — driving DUI suspended license (third offense) and first-degree bail jumping. Jent, 39, of Isom, was serving a three-year sentence and had been
in prison since Nov. 24, 2010.
• Larry Eugene Napier — first degree wanton endangerment and driving DUI suspended license (second off ense). Napier, 32, of Gordon, had been in prison since June 7, 2011 and had been serving a three-year prison sentence.
• Rebecca Ratliff — two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Ratliff , 43, of Jenkins, was serving a four-year sentence. Ratliff had been in prison since April 24, 2009.
• Homer J. Smallwood – flagrant non-support. Smallwood, 34, of Cromona, had
been in prison since Sept. 14, 2010. He was serving a four-year sentence.
• John Frank McCool — second degree unlawful transaction with a minor, third-degree burglary and intimidating a participant in the legal process. McCool, 46, address not listed,
was sentenced to three years in prison and had been in prison since Feb. 15, 2011. The changes approved by lawmakers last year allow prisoners within six months of their release
date to begin leaving Jan. 2 under the supervision of Probation and Parole. They will be given counseling and help with finding jobs and housing.The move, only one part of
a wide overhaul, is designed to cut $40 million annually from the Department of Corrections
budget and to keep inmates from returning. The Department of Corrections says it costs about $21,000 a year to house a state prisoner in Kentucky. In comparison, it costs
about $987 each year to supervise out-of-custody convicts. Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown told the Lexington Herald-Leader that officials won’t be able to calculate the actual savings until later this year. Th e release date also marks the
beginning of the 2012 General Assembly, during which lawmakers will consider making more changes to the law adopted last year.
A bipartisan task force headed up by State Rep. John Tilley, DHopkinsville, and Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London has made 23 recommendations.
Some of those include repealing laws that are rarely used, revamping how convicts are sentenced and reviewing employment restrictions for felons. They also suggest ways to clarify parts of the law adopted last year.
“That is one reason we kept the task force in place, so we can look at and make some recommendations to the legislature,” Jensen said. “We’re going to have to modify it in some respects.”
Some parts of the law, which took effect in June, have led to confusion among law enforcement and courts.
For example, more people are now cited for misdemeanor crimes, but the law says offi cers
can make an arrest if the subject poses a danger or if they don’t obey an officer’s “reasonable request” to stop what they are doing.
 
Lexington police Lt. Chris Van Brackel said there are questions as to what constitutes reasonable. “What one police officer thinks is reasonable, a judge may disagree
with later,” he said. He said in spite of three hours of training on the new law, offi cers
are still confused by vague wording and “weird dichotomies.” Brown said every proposed
clarification will be reviewed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all will be adopted.
The Department of Corrections said that about 12,500 fewer people were charged with crimes from June through November when compared to the same time span in 2010. In that six-month span, more offenders were released before trial, which saved counties the
expense of housing them, more showed up for court dates and a lower number committed new crimes while awaiting trial, according to the data.
 
“On the whole, the bill has done so far what we thought it would do. It’s reducing costs,” Jensen said.
 
Compiled from Associated Press and Mountain Eagle reports.



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