Nearly 1,000 Kentucky prison sentences to be commuted, Beshear says

Gov. Beshear speaks on COVID-19 in Kentucky
Updated: Apr. 2, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - KY. Gov. Andy Beshear says the state has suffered 11 more deaths related to the novel coronavirus.

The total number of deaths in the state stands at 31, with 770 total cases as of Thursday.

Beshear adds the newly reported deaths could include the state’s first person to die from the virus without an underlying health condition.

He repeated his claim Kentucky is faring better than other states in dealing with the outbreak.

Beshear had several new orders to announce at his daily briefing, including an executive order that would commute the sentences of more than 900 inmates in state prisons.

The inmates are currently imprisoned for non-violent, non-sexual crimes, the governor said.

The order, according to Cabinet Secretary Michael Brown, protects both those who are incarcerated as well as the men and women serving as corrections officers.

A screening process selected the inmates whose sentences will be commuted, Brown explains. Inmates selected are those with health conditions that may leave them more vulnerable to the virus, including those with respiratory ailments or heart conditions.

The individuals will also be screened for the virus prior to being released, must have a residence to go to where they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and can’t commit any other offenses lest their sentence be reimposed.

An initial batch of 186 inmates will have their sentences commuted in the coming days, with 743 additional inmates having their sentences commuted next week, Brown said.

The second, larger batch of inmates comprise individuals with fewer than six months remaining on their sentences.

“This lightens the load on the corrections system and at the same time protests the most vulnerable individuals who are in the corrections system,” Brown said.

Beshear says the state is finding it difficult to source personal protective equipment as it must bid for shipments against both other states and the federal government.

The state is working to manufacture PPE, according to the governor, but the process is somewhat hindered by intellectual property constraints.

Donations remain indispensable, he explains, and what is needed right now are gloves.

“We believe this is the next area where there is going to be a big run in the U.S.,” Beshear said. “We need as many of those donations as we can.”

To donate, call the National Guard at 512.607.6844.

Beshear extended of the policy prohibiting in-person classes at Kentucky public schools through May 1.

“I have encouraged all of our school districts to extend that nontraditional instruction, making sure that our kids out there have learning activities and meal service,” Beshear said. “This is further sacrifice by our kids and by our educators, but it’s absolutely necessary.”

He also said there is “a real chance” Kentucky public schools will not go back to in-person classes this year, but added “we are not there yet.”

A new executive order expands travel restrictions so that people coming into Kentucky -- not just passing through -- must quarantine for 14 days.

We have to make sure we don’t have people traveling in, staying two days and then leaving, because that frustrates everything we are trying to do right now,” the governor said. “If someone has a family member from out of state and they want to come and ride it out with their family members, that’s fine. But once you get here, you quarantine for 14 days and you don’t go anywhere else. It’s no different than any other state is doing. It’s a precaution that all states should do and most states are doing.”

Additionally, state, county and city governments are now able to hire back retirees.

The policy had already been available to first responders and corrections officers, the governor noted, but now it is expanded because a situation could arise in which an entire governmental entity is forced into self-quarantine.

Lastly, Beshear announced overnight stays at state parks will be prohibited going forward.

According to Kentucky State Parks: “Effective Friday, April 3, Kentucky State Parks and the Kentucky Horse Park will suspend all overnight reservations for park lodges, cabins and campgrounds until further notice. All upcoming reservations will be canceled, and refunds will be issued.

“Parks will be open to the public between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Park visitors will have access to park trails and scenic sites during these designated hours. Golf courses will remain open. Park visitors are encouraged to check the website for golf course hours of operation. All state park lodges, cabins, playgrounds and campgrounds will be closed. Food service will also be suspended until further notice.”

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