Kentucky lawmakers advanced a sweeping crime bill that would require tougher sentences for many offenses, including a “three-strikes” penalty that would put felons behind bars for life after committing their third violent act.
House Bill 5, whose lead sponsor is Republican Rep. Jared Bauman, passed by a 74-22 vote on Thursday and now heads to the GOP-led Senate.
“With this bill, House Bill 5, we are reasserting some basic and simple truths,” Bauman said. “That there is a right and wrong, and that criminals are accountable for their actions, not society. And that society has the right to protect itself from the criminal element.”
While the bill suggests imposing harsher penalties for a handful of crimes from vandalism to attempted murder, the key component is the “three-strikes” provision, since it would place those who have committed their third violent felony in jail permanently.
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“If someone has committed three violent crimes and they’re incarcerated and can’t get back out, they’re not going to commit another violent crime,” Rep. John Blanton said. “That’s a fact.”
Other key elements of the bill include: limiting bail payments by charitable bail organizations, cracking down on fentanyl distribution that results in a death, designating the murder of a first responder in the line of duty as a crime punishable by death, and requiring those convicted of carjacking to serve at least 85% of their sentence before being released on probation or parole.
Early release would also be prevented for offenders who possessed a firearm as a convicted felon or while on probation or parole, or if they knew the firearm was stolen; and tougher sentences would be imposed on adults who use minors as criminal accomplices.
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Under the measure, employees and business owners would be offered criminal immunity in cases where they had to use a “reasonable amount of force” against thieves or in protection of themselves or the business.
The bill also aims to ban street camping and allows local governments to designate temporary camping locations for those who are homeless.
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House representatives debated the bill for about three hours, according to The Associated Press.
Supporters described it as an overdue policy shift that focuses on holding criminals accountable for their actions, while opponents claimed it would put more people behind bars and cause additional unknown costs.
Opponents also said the bill overreaches and doesn’t address what leads people to commit crimes.
“We do have about 20 different bills that have been crammed into one,” Democratic Rep. Sarah Stalker said. “Why we’re doing a rinse and repeat of this failed attempt from the ’90s is unclear to me.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.