By RONNIE ELLIS
Kentucky has two of the 25 most innovative government programs in the country, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The Alternative Sentencing Social Worker Program, operated by the state Department of Public Advocacy, and the Metropolitan College in Jefferson County, a work force, education and economic development partnership among Jefferson Community College, the University of Louisville and UPS, are each in the running to be named the best program in the country and receive a $100,000 grant.
“Despite diminishing resources, these government programs have developed model innovations that other struggling agencies should be inspired to replicate and adapt to their own communities,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of The Innovations in Government Program at the Ash Center.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Ed Monahan, who heads the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, which operates the alternative sentencing program in eight offices around the state. He’s hoping the national recognition helps generate funding support from the legislature to expand the program.
It saves the state $3.25 for every $1 invested, Monahan said, and places mostly low-level, non-violent offenders whose real underlying problem is substance abuse into treatment programs.
Social workers are paired with public defenders and with approval by a judge, offenders are placed into a case management system of rehabilitation, drug screenings and regular reports to the court rather than sentencing them to jail time.
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