Senate should follow Bevin’s lead, pass felony expungement bill


Matt Bevin

Most people want criminals to reform themselves and become productive members of society, and Kentucky is poised to give them that chance.

Gov. Matt Bevin recently announced support for an expungement bill that would allow some people — 94,000 people, according to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce — to have their records wiped clean.

Bevin’s call for expungement was coupled with political jabs against former governor Steve Beshear, who created an executive order restoring voting rights of some nonviolent convicted felons.

According to the Associated Press, Bevin suspended the order and called it “illegal.”

Whether or not Beshear was acting lawfully, it is reassuring to see two Kentucky governors standing up for felons.

Cary Plummer of Jubilee Jobs of Lexington, a group that helps unemployed and underemployed find work, said the legislation would help Kentuckians with felony convictions find steady jobs.

“We believe in second chances,” Plummer said.

The legislation would allow people convicted of nonviolent crimes with maximum sentences of five years to ask the court to expunge the crime. People would have to wait five years after completing their sentences to clear their records.

In addition, no one convicted of a sex crime, multiple felony crimes or a crime against a child or elderly person would qualify, according to the Associated Press.

Many states have similar laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 states and the District of Columbia restore voting rights for most ex-felons.

But the key to Bevin’s proposal goes further than voting rights. People who have served their terms, and who have lived outside prison without reoffending, can still struggle to find employment.

Senate Republicans did not propose an expungement bill when they showed their priority bills Wednesday, despite Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer telling the Associated Press the Senate is supportive of some type of expungement legislation.

This legislation has been proposed before in Kentucky, and it has always failed. Now, with the support of the governor and the Senate, it is time for the state to give 94,000 people a second chance.

Will Wright is the editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernel.

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