Homicide victim's family wants Kentucky's early prison release l - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Homicide victim's family wants Kentucky's early prison release laws changed

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bill designed to reduce Kentucky's prison population and save taxpayers money let some dangerous criminals back on the street.

"I remember many nights she would have to come lie in my bed and sleep with me because that night he would beat on her," Susie Montgomery recalled.

Montgomery lost her mother Joann Montgomery Patterson to domestic violence on Memorial Day 14 years ago. Montgomery said she knew her stepfather Shawn Patterson was coming up for parole on Dec. 3, but never got the chance to fight to keep him behind bars. 

"I called the VINE line and they said Shawn Patterson has been released," Montgomery said. Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) is a phone number victims and family members can call to get the status of an inmate. 

The Kentucky Department of Corrections released Patterson without a parole hearing on November 13 under the terms of House Bill 463. Lawmakers sold sweeping prison reform to the public in 2011 as a way to cut the taxpayers' cost on incarceration. State leaders said it would let "non-violent" drug offenders out of prison up to six months early to enter into transitional programs. 

Representative Jim Wayne, (D-Louisville) said, "The program was designed so people who were in prison for substance abuse problems would get substance abuse treatment while in prison and that on re-entry to society they continue the treatment if necessary." After the bill passed, Representative John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville) said, "We are well on our way to saving the half billion dollars we planned to save in 10 years."

WDRB has learned it's not just the "non-violent" offenders getting out of prison early.

"I really don't know what they were thinking when they let a murderer out," Montgomery said. "It's not like he was a non-violent offender. He murdered my mom." 

Under the provisions of HB 463, Class A felons like murders and rapist are not eligible for the Mandatory Re-Entry Supervision program. Manslaughter is a Class B felony. Shawn Patterson stabbed his wife to death and because he was convicted of manslaughter -- not murder -- HB 463 said he was eligible for early release. 

"I felt betrayed by the system. They didn't even notify us," Montgomery said.

WDRB discovered Kentucky Corrections releasing some inmates for Mandatory Re-Entry Supervision more than the six months early pitched in the legislation, and many offend again. 

In April 2012, LMPD charged Cannon "Curt" Pendergrass with the murder of 15-year-old Gregory Holt. 

In December of the same year LMPD's Robbery unit had to track down Fabian Valentine. Detectives said he went on a robbery spree after being released from prison under HB 463 hitting restaurants, gas stations and the same U.S. Bank three times. 

After Valentine's arrest Lt. Jennifer Coe said, "This is the importance of trying to keep these people behind bars. He was a dangerous criminal. "

Kevin Underwood's case is similar to Patterson's. The charge was amended from murder to manslaughter. In the eight months cut off his prison sentence by HB 463, police said Underwood confessed to 50 burglaries.

Representative Wayne said he still supports HB 463 because, "these were people who were already going to get out of prison." Though Wayne admits it may be time to revisit the bill. "I think there are particular tweaks that we need to do or need to consider on the legislation to tighten it up on specific cases," Rep. Wayne explained.

Montgomery wants those who are eligible for Mandatory Re-Entry Supervision re-evaluated and a parole hearing before anyone is released.

"We can't do anything about what they've done to our family but we're definitely going to do something for the other families that have been and are going to be affected by this bill," said Montgomery.

House bill 463 had bi-partisan support when it passed the Kentucky Legislature in 2011. State reports show the s prison population in the Commonwealth has dropped eight percent since it took affect.

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