By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
Bipartisan legislation was filed Tuesday in an effort to cut down on recidivism and allow people a better transition back into the community after life in prison.
On Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin joined Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield and Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Venters and others at a press conference to unveil the broad reentry reform legislation.
Senate Bill 120 is the result of work from the Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council assembled by Gov. Bevin over the summer to study all aspects of Kentucky’s criminal justice system and recommend reforms.
This legislation would help address Kentucky’s workforce shortage by providing work opportunities for individuals who are held back by a past criminal record.
At the press conference, Bevin stated that it will help with workforce and cutting back on individuals ending up back in prison because “a job is one of the best ways for a person to not fall back into recidivism.”
One piece included in the bill that would help with workforce issues is language giving occupational licensing boards the freedom to decide whether a prior offense should preclude an individual from obtaining a license. A board could deny a license if its members saw fit, and a fair appeals process would be established. But a denial would not be automatic, as it is now.
The Kentucky Chamber is strongly supportive of this as the business community’s main focus is a highly-skilled workforce and this legislation will help individuals get back into jobs, be more productive citizens, pay taxes, and support their families.
Sen. Westerfield also discussed some of the provisions in the bill that will help people with substance abuse issues and a program that would allow private industries to provide employment to individuals behind prison walls.
The Chamber’s role in the justice reform efforts was highlighted as a part of the council working to put this bill together and as a member of the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition that brings together groups from all end of the spectrum from the business community to the ACLU.
For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.