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Nearly 50% of Kentucky inmates released early due to COVID concerns face new criminal charges

The Beshear administration said fewer than 20% of the inmates released have been sentenced by a judge for crimes committed after getting out.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Nearly half of the Kentucky inmates who were released early from prison due to health concerns during the pandemic are facing new criminal charges, according to a new report.

To help keep inmates and corrections staff healthy, Gov. Andy Beshear commuted sentences of 1,706 inmates in 2020.

In order to qualify for early release, inmates had to be non-violent, non-sexual offenders, according to Morgan Hall, communications director for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. 

Hall said prisoners also had to have less than six months left to serve. 

Those with less than five years left to serve qualified if they were at severe risk from COVID.

RELATED: Kentucky inmates will be released in response to coronavirus outbreak

A report from the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Court found 48% of inmates released early have been criminally charged since their release.

That same report shows 32% are facing felony charges. 

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who requested these statistics from the Kentucky Administrative Offices of the Court said he feels the governor has some responsibility for those offenses. 

"I want him to apologize to the new victims in Kentucky," Nemes said. "There are new families today that are suffering from being a victim that they didn't have to be."

While half of those released are now facing criminal charges, not all have been convicted.

The Beshear administration said fewer than 20% of the inmates released have been sentenced by a judge for crimes committed after getting out. 

"That report is very different than what we've seen in the past," Beshear said Monday when asked about the report. "When we judge recidivism, it's by convictions because there are people that are charged with things that it's ultimately dropped and or plead down."

Recidivism is the tendency of inmates to offend after getting released from prison.

RELATED: Lawmakers question DOC officials on Governor Beshear’s COVID-19 commutations

The governor said his office is doing a data-dive of their own on this and expects the recidivism rate to be lower than the statewide average, not higher. 

"We're going to check every single person who got a commutation," Beshear said. "We are going to see if they were charged with anything during the period of time they would have been incarcerated because remember if they only had six months, it's been 18 months"

The Kentucky Department of Corrections calculates recidivism rates in 12, 24 and 36-month increments. 

The department calculates the rates based on new convictions that result in prison sentences. It doesn't reflect new arrests, which is what the Kentucky Administrative Offices of the Court's report looked at. 

In the last two decades, the two-year recidivism rate for inmates fluctuated.

The highest recidivism rate happened in 2015 when 44.56% of the inmates released re-offended. The lowest recidivism rate was in 2008 when 29.5% of the inmates released re-offended.

You can view the report below.

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 Contact reporter Rachel Droze at rdroze@whas11.com or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram