Governor Bevin, Chairman Westerfield and Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Unveil Reentry Reform Legislation

Syrita Bowen Kentucky, News, Uncategorized

Legislation Reflects First Step in Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council Recommendations

Frankfort, KY – Governor Matt Bevin today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney WesterfieldHouse Judiciary Chairman Joe Fischer, Supreme Court Justice Daniel Venters, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley, and Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey to introduce legislation designed to provide common-sense fixes to reentry and second chance issues at the heart of Kentucky’s justice system.

The bill, Senate Bill 120, seeks to reduce Kentucky’s high recidivism rates by removing barriers to individuals leaving prison and returning to society. This includes lifting the automatic ban in place for those with minor criminal records that seek occupational licensing so they’re able to obtain meaningful employment, and providing more options for those struggling to pay fines and fees. The legislation is the first step of action in the work of the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council set up by Governor Bevin in June 2016.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about criminal justice in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, about how we can look at levels of recidivism, about how we can assimilate people back into the workforce and how we can do a better job here in Kentucky of dealing with criminal justice in general,” said Governor Matt Bevin. Praising the efforts of the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council, he stated, “I’m delighted by what has come out of this. There is a lot yet to be done but there is a tremendous amount of good work that has really come forward in this bill.”

“Failing to halt the cycle of incarceration costs our state tens of millions of dollars a year with very little impact on public safety,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield. “The re-entry efforts included in this legislation will allow us to reduce our growing prison population and ensure returning citizens are prepared to lead productive, crime free lives in society.”

Polling unveiled last week by the U.S. Justice Action Network showed an overwhelming majority of Kentuckians – 91 percent – believe the state should break down barriers to help those leaving prison. The poll also found Kentucky voters across party lines favor justice reform and are more likely to vote for legislators that pursue these efforts. 

“When paired with Governor Bevin’s passion, this bipartisan support sets the stage for real progress here in the Commonwealth,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the U.S. Justice Action Network. “We look forward to working with Senate President Stivers, Speaker Hoover, Chairman Westerfield, and Chairman Fischer to advance this bill and rehabilitate more Kentuckians to allow them to find jobs and turn away from a life of crime.”

House Judiciary Chairman Joe Fischer discussed the benefits that occupational licensing reforms can have for Kentucky, saying “This change in the law will embolden private enterprise to give individuals a second chance and the opportunity to have a place in the workforce.”

Members of the Smart on Crime Coalition attended the release as well, including the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the ACLU-KY, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. The group urged further action in the next legislative session, including addressing the elimination of money bail and raising the felony theft threshold.