Kentucky’s Chamber Of Commerce Wants Drug Possession De-Felonized, Among Other Criminal Justice Reforms

Kentucky’s Chamber of Commerce has once again revealed its list of legislative priorities, and criminal justice reforms are once again included. 

For the 2022 session, the organization, which represents Kentucky business interests, is advocating for de-felonizing drug possession, diverting individuals arrested for possession into treatment instead of prison, bail reform and increased access to professional licensing and education opportunities for those with criminal histories for crimes that are non-violent and non-sexual. 

“Kentucky has established itself at the forefront of criminal justice reform, with passage of major pieces of legislation that are reducing recidivism, supporting re-entry and employment, and keeping our communities safe,” reads the chamber’s legislative agenda. “Criminal justice reform is pivotal to building a competitive workforce and reducing cycles of poverty and unemployment.”

In the past, the Chamber has successfully advocated for legislation that has helped some Kentuckians expunge their criminal records, raised the felony theft threshold and encouraged work and training for those on probation, the organization says. 

But, the Chamber’s quest for criminal justice reform has not always produced results. In 2019, LEO reported that one of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities was bail reform. The Chamber points to statistics that show that in 2016, 64,123 non-violent, non-sexual defendants were detained in Kentucky because they couldn’t afford their bail.

A bill was proposed by a Republican lawmaker in 2019 that would have scrapped bail for some medium and low risk defendants in favor of unsecured bonds, only to be paid if the defendants failed to show up in court. It did not pass. 

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