A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New legislation approves criminal justice reform to allow former offenders to get back to work

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The House of Representatives gave final approval to a substantial criminal justice reform measure aimed to reduce repeat offender rates across the Commonwealth. Senate Bill 120 reduces red tape to help get former offenders back to work, strengthen Kentucky families, and make communities safer.

Senate Bill 120 does not adjust Kentucky’s penal code or sentencing process, but specifically adds support mechanisms for those exiting incarceration and re-entering normal society.

Among those mechanisms is an expanded work release program to enhance work experience, develop skills, and earn money.

The bill also provides for private industries to partner with local detention centers to offer employment opportunities and develop work skills for specific, local industries. Wages earned from these expanded work opportunities will go to victim restitution, child support, and payment of court costs and fines.

Remaining money can be utilized by the offender to reintegrate after the sentence is complete.

“High repeat offender rates in Kentucky prove that action is necessary to address how our correctional facilities prepare individuals returning to society,” said Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, who ushered the bill through the House.

“Ensuring these men and women are well-equipped to integrate successfully back into society is imperative not only for the well-being of those exiting incarceration, but also for the safety and success of our local communities. Obtaining meaningful work proves to lower repeat offender rates, resulting in less victims and less cost to the criminal justice system.”

Senate Bill 120 also allows non-violent offenders who have re-entered society to apply for professional and occupational licenses without being denied automatically. Currently, one in four jobs in Kentucky requires some form of licensure. Under current statute, felons are ineligible to apply for such licenses, hindering their chances of getting a job after serving their time.

“We are doing a disservice to our community by not allowing these individuals to get back to work and better their lives,” Petrie added. “Senate Bill 120 takes a significant step in addressing one of the biggest causes of repeat offenses, and I am proud that the General Assembly passed this measure in a bipartisan manner.”

Providing better opportunities for returning ex-offenders to work has been an initiative supported by Bevin, the House, and the Senate.

From LRC Public Information

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