by Don Weber –
FRANKFORT– A bill which would make it easier for individuals released from the criminal justice system to reenter the work force after they have completed their sentences was unanimously passed by the House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday morning.
Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would lift some employment barriers for felons in hopes of keeping them from reoffending. The legislation would also allow Class C and D felons on probation or parole to earn compliance credit and establish reentry programs, among other items.
Other language in the bill gives 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.
Committee chair Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, said the House committee made several changes to the bill.
“The changes made in the House was the restoration of the attorney general to the CJPAC (he meant to say Criminal Justice Council) and the Kentucky State Police commissioner to the CJPAC (Criminal Justice Council), and a change in the presumption of the burden of proof with respect to whether there’s a connection between the crime committed and the duties of the occupation for which they’re seeking a license,” Fischer said.
Fischer believes that the biggest impact of the legislation will be to allow more of Kentucky’s citizens, who have committed non-violent offenses to have a second chance on release to have productive lives that will help them from reentering the criminal justice system.
“The theory is if somebody is able to save money while they’re in prison which this will give the opportunity to do, and to get a job when they get out of prison, they’ll be less likely to reoffend,” Fischer said.
Fischer expects SB 120 to come to the House floor for a vote later on Wednesday.