Court allows state to continue early release of prisoners

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the state can resume releasing prisoners under a controversial early-release program.

On Wednesday, Circuit Judge David Tapp, who sits for Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties, issued an order directing the state to stop releasing inmates under the program in all 120 counties. That order also applied to parolees who were removed from supervision under the program.

But yesterday, Chief Judge Sara Combs of the Court of Appeals granted Corrections Commissioner Ladonna Thompson’s request to stay Tapp’s order and recommended transferring the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court because of its “great and immediate public interest.”

Combs said her stay order was effective only until the Supreme Court rules on the recommendation to take the case or issues other orders on the matter.

Jay Blanton, spokesman for Gov. Steve Beshear, said in a statement: “We are pleased with the quick and decisive action today by the Court of Appeals. We continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will affirm the legality of the program.”

At issue is a “parole supervision credit” that was part of the 2009-10 budget bill. Tapp ruled the Department of Corrections was violating Kentucky law by applying the credit to prisoners and parolees for time spent on parole before the budget bill became law.

The state has released more than 2,000 inmates under the program since last May.



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