Criminal justice reform bill heads to full state House

As Kentucky works to reform its criminal justice system and lower prison populations, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would increase the felony theft threshold for the first time since the 1990s.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Massey, the House Chair of the Judiciary Committee, House Bill 126 would raise the felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,000, which would aim to remove barriers to individuals who have made mistakes, according to Massey.

Massey pointed to the challenges associated with gaining meaningful employment when a person has a felony on their record for one mistake, saying it negatively impacts Kentucky’s workforce and economy.

Speaking to committee members Wednesday, Massey went over how a similar bill passed the same committee last year as well as the full House with high vote margins. It then passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with one change before running out of time on the Senate floor because of the COVID-19 outbreak that began in March 2020.

“This bill is the exact same as it was last year in its latest form, which includes a change suggested by the Kentucky Retail Federation with regard to an aggregation phrase,” Massey said.

Representative Jason Nemes, also spoke to how felonies negatively impact individuals.

“Under the current system, a person could commit theft of items totaling $501 and face a jail sentence of up to five years,” Nemes said, adding his opinion that the justice system should spend more time on more serious crimes.

House Bill 126 now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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