One-third of inmates freed by Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear during the pandemic were later charged with a felony, according to a state report.
Beshear commuted the sentences of 1,704 inmates through executive orders last year, citing an interest in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and protecting the health of vulnerable inmates. A report from Kentucky's Administrative Office of the Courts, released under pressure from Republican state lawmakers, found that 553 of those inmates were subsequently charged with felonies as of August.
The Courier-Journalrevealed the findings of the report, which also showed that with misdemeanor charges considered, nearly half of the released prisoners were charged with some crime.
While the report did not detail the specifics of the crimes, it tallied the number of felony charges by their class. Four were charged with Class A felonies against a person, and 24 were charged with Class B felonies against a person. Class A felonies include the most grievous crimes, including "murder … first-degree rape, and sodomy involving a child under 12 years old," according to the Courier-Journal, and Class B felonies include "first-degree manslaughter, rape, sodomy, assault, and robbery."
The Kentucky Republican Party accused the governor of endangering public safety by releasing the inmates.
"While Gov. Andy Beshear kept kids out of school, businesses shuttered, and even sent law enforcement to stalk churchgoers, he let more than 1,700 criminals out from behind bars—hundreds of whom went on to commit felonies," a spokesman for the party told the Washington Free Beacon. "Despite the governor's repeated assurances that these offenders were nonviolent, they even included dangerous criminals convicted of crimes like attacking police and corrections officers, carjackers, gun crimes and domestic violence, and more. Gov. Beshear's commutations raise serious questions and he needs to answer to the people of Kentucky."
Beshear defended his commutations in April 2020, insisting the state selected for release only inmates who had not been convicted of violent or sexual crimes.