Criminal justice and public safety are two of the most basic functions of government. After all, our ability to keep communities safe is critical to success in everything else. During the 2021 Regular Session, my colleagues and I made criminal justice one of our top priorities. We approved several measures aimed at preventing crimes by taking an intentional approach.

One of the strong bi-partisan efforts passed in the 2021 General Session was HB 497. The measure eases the transition from prison to the workforce. This legislation is a necessary step in helping individuals get back on their feet and end the cycle of relapse and recidivism as a way of life meanwhile saving counties and cities untold millions of taxpayer dollars. HB 497 requires the Department of Corrections (DOC) to issue a released prisoner the documentation of his or her criminal history, institutional history, and other relevant information. The DOC will also give inmates a certificate of employability upon their release and will be required to report the number of certificates provided to inmates.

In addition to our work on transitioning prisoners into the workforce, here are a few other criminal justice measures we approved:

Protecting Crime Victim Rights — HB 472 changes the statute of limitations for misdemeanor sex offenses in criminal and civil cases to hold perpetrators of sexual abuse accountable. This measure extends the criminal statute of limitations for misdemeanor sex offenses against minors from five to 10 years after the victim becomes an adult. As society has come to understand the physical, emotional and psychological effects of sexual abuse, we need to acknowledge the effects as reasons why the victim may not immediately report the crime.

Guidelines for No Knock-Warrants — SB 4 establishes procedures for no-knock warrants, a controversial law enforcement tool that can be both helpful and dangerous. It requires judges to review applications for warrants impartially, requires execution by special response teams with specific training, and requires officers executing a warrant to be clearly identifiable as a law enforcement officer. It also requires that a paramedic be in proximity when executing a no-knock warrant. Lastly, SB 4 allows for recording devices, other than a body camera, for counties with less than 90,000 people.

Sexual Offenses by Peace Officers — SB 52 makes the charges of rape in the third degree, sodomy in the third degree, and sexual abuse in the second degree applicable to peace officers who subject a person in custody or under arrest to sexual intercourse. Before SB 52, each statute contained language to apply specifically to corrections officers, jailers, and staff at Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for sexual acts committed against people in their custody or care.

Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity — SB 10 creates the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity, a legislative panel that will conduct studies and research on issues related to racial disparities. Under the provisions of SB 10, the commission will consider disparities that may exist across the sectors of educational equity, child welfare, health, economic opportunity, juvenile justice, criminal justice, and any other sectors that are deemed relevant in an effort to identify areas of improvement in providing services and opportunities for minority communities.

I appreciate that many of my colleagues in the House and Senate worked this past session to make Kentucky a safer place to live, work, and raise a family, which will always be a top priority of mine. If you would like to share your thoughts on public safety or criminal justice, please reach out to me. I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at samara.heavrin@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information visit the LRC website www.legislature.ky.gov.

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