Bevin says laws causing “fast track to incarceration” for low-level offenses should be reevaluated at federal and state level

Republican governor’s race candidate Matt Bevin says he is in favor of felony expungement and the restoration of felon voting rights for low-level offenses depending on the specifics in legislation.

In a sit-down interview with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Bevin said the way the state is incarcerating people is a “losing game” and says the state can save money by taking another look at the system.

“The amount we spend to incarcerate someone is so much larger than the amount that it would take to educate them,” Bevin said.

The Republican candidate went on to note the increased percentages of individuals incarcerated in the state and country and arguing that the intended results are not there.

“I am a big believer in expungement, I really am. I think there needs to be legislation that we need to implement. People aren’t used to hearing things like that from a Republican but I mean it sincerely because we are a nation of second chances, we are a nation where we have always afforded people a chance to pursue the American dream,” Bevin said, adding that he believes the current system prohibits many from achieving that (starting at 1:00 in the interview).

Bevin said state and federal legislation needs to be on the table to re-evaluate the justice system and the “fast track to incarceration.”

In recent years, the Kentucky General Assembly has considered legislation seeking to expunge the records of individuals with certain non-violent class D felonies after a waiting period so they could apply for jobs with confidence that their prior offense would not take them off the list for consideration. (Read more about the issue and legislation that has been pushed in the state here.)

When asked if he would support this type of legislation, Bevin said it would depend on the specifics of the bill but he would like to see this issue passed in the state.

“We need to give people the ability, frankly, that if they have served their debt to society and they were non-violent offenders, and they have re-paid whatever is owed and they have kept themselves clean through the parole period and the probationary period and whatever the case may be, that we need to give them the ability to have restored to them some of the same privileges and rights that they had lost including voting rights,” Bevin said (at 1:30).

There is a long list of offenses that qualify as a Class D felony in the state but the legislation proposed in the Kentucky General Assembly would only allow for a judge to expunge the record of a non-violent felon for offenses such as lower level drug charges. The legislation prohibits felonies involving offenses like sex offenses, child and elder abuse from being expunged.

Because of the long list of low-level crimes that lead to these incarcerations, there has also been discussion in the state about reclassification of some Class D felonies to make them misdemeanor offenses.

Bevin said that is another issue that would depend of the specifics of the legislation proposed in the legislature but added he would defer to those in law enforcement to decide on a topic like that.

Hear more of the specifics on what Bevin had to say on justice issues and more by watching the interview segment below:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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