Most Kentuckians want to treat drug offenders, not jail them

Days after a bill was passed that will reduce prison time for the state’s low-risk, non-violent drug offenders, the 2010 Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows that seven in 10 Kentuckians favor replacing prison sentences with mandatory drug treatment and probation for people who commit non-violent crimes.

The poll also showed 71 percent of Kentuckians are in favor of doing the same for non-violent offenders who commit crimes under the influence of alcohol.
The results were released today, just days after Gov. Steve Beshear signed House Bill 463, probably the most important piece of legislation passed in the Gereal Assembly’s just-ended session. The legislation is, in part, meant to help curb overcrowding in jail and prison populations. Kentucky’s prison population has increased by 45 percent since 2000.

About 25 percent of inmates in federal, state and local jails and prison are incarcerated because of drug violations, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse data show. Another 4 percent are incarcerated because of alcohol law violations. These violations include drug/alcohol possession or use; substance trafficking; driving under the influence; drunkenness, vagrancy or disorderly conduct; and liquor law violations.

The poll was conducted Dec. 3-22 and Dec. 27-28 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. It interviewed a random sample of 1,677 adults, 1,469 by landline phones and 208 via cell phones. The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. In 95 of 100 cases, the estimates are accurate within a 2.4 percent margin of error.
Respondents were asked more than 50 questions that covered a range of health-related topics, including financial stresses related to health care; characteristics of their neighborhood (examples: Is it easy to buy fresh produce or ride a bicycle?); degree of civic engagement, such as donation of blood, work on a community project or attendance at political meeting or rally; using cell phones while driving; health insurance coverage; the new health care law; and smoking policy.

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