Three law enforcement, justice bills praised by crime group

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)Kentucky House of Representatives committees Wednesday advanced three measures endorsed by Kentucky Smart on Crime, a broad-based coalition working for common sense justice reforms that proactively address individual and systemic racial disparities and inequities, improve public health, enhance public safety, strengthen communities and promote cost-effective sentencing alternatives.

House Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Protection Committee gave easy approval to SB 80, sponsored by Senator Danny Carroll of Benton, a measure that supports good law enforcement officers by holding bad officers accountable for their misconduct.

The bill better defines the officer decertification process, protects law enforcement agencies by bringing transparency to prior misconduct by applicants, and requires an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force.

House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed two measures. SB 84, dubbed “Dignity Bill Part 2” and sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams of Louisville.

The legislation is aimed at providing pregnant women in incarceration the necessary resources for a safe and healthy pregnancy.

The bill forbids solitary confinement during pregnancy and a post-partum period, requires the Department of Corrections to provide more data on the use of solitary confinement, provides for six weeks of post-partum care, expands pregnancy medical release to include community-based treatment for substance use disorder, and ensures mothers have access to social workers for possible reunification after time served.

SB 36, sponsored by Senator Whitney Westerfield, reforms the process by which juveniles are transferred to adult court and returns discretion in these cases to local prosecutors and judges.  When it is deemed appropriate, juveniles could be held closer to home so they are better connected to their communities and families and on a pathway for rehabilitation and reform.

The bill also works to address racial disparities.  According to data from the Kentucky Administrative Office of Courts, of 483 cases closed in 2020 in which juveniles were tried as adults, 53% of the defendants were Black when only 8% of the state’s population is Black.

“Our 14 partner organizations are grateful for the leadership of Senators Adams, Carroll, and Westerfield in the ongoing process of improving the Commonwealth’s justice system,” said Amanda Hall policy strategist for ACLU of Kentucky.

“Our coalition, which includes the business community, think tanks, victims groups, clergy, and social welfare organizations, among others, urges the House to pass these sensible measures that will improve public safety,” continued Hall.

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