Criminal justice reform coalition announces support for bill broadening opportunities for those seeking a second chance

BR236 would eliminate a provision that prohibits individuals with felony convictions from eligibility for the KEES Scholarship

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Smart on Crime, a broad-based coalition comprised of partner organizations from across the commonwealth, on Wednesday endorsed BR 236, legislation prefiled by Kentucky State Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, that would remove barriers to educational attainment for Kentuckians who have a felony conviction.

BR 246 eliminates a state requirement that prevents these individuals from eligibility for the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), which provides opportunities to students who meet certain metrics related to high school GPA, SAT, ACT, and/or Advanced Placement classes.

“With a recidivism rate of 32%, Kentucky still has a long way to go, but BR 246 is the type of measure that can help reduce that number by removing barriers to educational attainment and job skills for those seeking a new path,” said Nicole Krider, director of engagement, United Way of Kentucky, a partner organization in the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition.

For the second year in a row, Kentucky had the seventh-highest incarceration rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics Prisoners in 2019 annual report released on Oct. 22, 2020. The Commonwealth’s rate declined by 1.5%, compared to a decline of 2.3% nationally.

“In recent years, we have seen growing support in the General Assembly for legislation that better positions individuals so they succeed once they leave the system,” said Kate Shanks, vice president of public affairs at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, another Kentucky Smart on Crime partner organization. “We view this bill as a no-brainer because there is also a great urgency to improve the percentage of Kentuckians with degrees from two-year and four-year institutions, an area where we currently lag the rest of the nation. Rep. Tipton’s efforts are a total win-win.”

Kentucky’s current corrections budget is 633,785,800, making it one of the largest state expenditures.

Kentucky Smart on Crime is a broad-based coalition working for common-sense justice reforms that enhance public safety, strengthen communities, and promote cost effective sentencing alternatives. Partner organizations include American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, Kentucky Council of Churches, Catholic Conference of Kentucky, Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc., Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Kentucky Youth Advocates, Volunteers of America Mid-States, Inc., NAACP Kentucky, Kentucky Criminal Justice Forum, and United Way of Kentucky.