Morehead State University

Poster Title

Understanding Prison Populations in the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

State and federal prison populations have grown dramatically in the past thirty years. In 2007, the Commonwealth of Kentucky experienced the most rapid growth in prison population for any state in the entire country: an overwhelming rate of twelve percent (Pew Charitable Trust Center 2008). The purpose of the research presented here is to understand the relative influence of various social factors on trends in incarceration. Relying on data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Kentucky Department of Corrections, we examine the relative influence of changes in the State's (1) criminal incidents and arrests, (2) demographic and economic indicators, and (3) criminal justice statutes and operational policies on overall incarceration trends and those for various subpopulations of prisoners. After conducting both lagged interrupted time series and event history analyses, we conclude, as do others, that statutes and policies have had a relatively strong influence on prison populations, while demographic and economic effects have little direct effect, and crime rates are actually negatively associated with prison population trends in recent years. Particular attention has been given to persistent felony offender laws, mandatory sentencing, longer sentences, transfer of juveniles to adult courts, and alternative programs such as drug courts in the current study. Findings support the work of the State's Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center, and will be made available to the Department of Corrections and the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

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Understanding Prison Populations in the Commonwealth of Kentucky

State and federal prison populations have grown dramatically in the past thirty years. In 2007, the Commonwealth of Kentucky experienced the most rapid growth in prison population for any state in the entire country: an overwhelming rate of twelve percent (Pew Charitable Trust Center 2008). The purpose of the research presented here is to understand the relative influence of various social factors on trends in incarceration. Relying on data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Kentucky Department of Corrections, we examine the relative influence of changes in the State's (1) criminal incidents and arrests, (2) demographic and economic indicators, and (3) criminal justice statutes and operational policies on overall incarceration trends and those for various subpopulations of prisoners. After conducting both lagged interrupted time series and event history analyses, we conclude, as do others, that statutes and policies have had a relatively strong influence on prison populations, while demographic and economic effects have little direct effect, and crime rates are actually negatively associated with prison population trends in recent years. Particular attention has been given to persistent felony offender laws, mandatory sentencing, longer sentences, transfer of juveniles to adult courts, and alternative programs such as drug courts in the current study. Findings support the work of the State's Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center, and will be made available to the Department of Corrections and the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.