Faith Leaders Speak Out on Reforming KY’s Justice System

Kentucky Council of Churches

The Kentucky Council of Churches held a #PrayerInAction meeting yesterday focusing on Justice Reform/Restorative Justice. The assembled crowd heard from several speakers on many justice issues.

“The Kentucky Council of Churches supports legislation that creates a more protective, equitable, redemptive and restorative system,” stated Rev. Dr. Peggy Hinds, interim Executive Director.

One theme that emerged from the assembled speakers was the need to decriminalize mental illness and provide post-incarceration addiction support. Being in prison is “like a merry-go-round…people are getting out then going back for doing the things they were doing before,” said Richard Young of Northern Kentucky, a former felon who is in mental health and addiction recovery. More treatment options in prison, connections to community-based treatment options, and supportive transitions from prison to community were cited as needed reforms.

Another key theme was revisiting what constitutes a felony in Kentucky. “Under current law, stealing a cell phone – if you have two prior felonies – could get you twenty years in prison,” explained Damon Preston, Deputy Public Advocate.

The #BantheBox movement, increasing voting rights for released felons, and the inequality within our prison population were also discussed.

“No state has a higher rate of kids who have had a parent incarcerated in their lifetime,” added Tara Grieshop-Goodwin of Kentucky Youth Advocates. KYA and the Council are supporting a new bill that will address inequalities in juvenile justice regarding severity of offense, offender’s race, and the rate at which juvenile offenders are tried as an adult.

Why are so many of Kentucky’s faith leaders speaking about this issue?

“We are outpacing the rest of the world in per capita incarcerations, which is absolute madness,” said Rev. David Kovali, a pastor in Burlington KY.
“All faiths are about justice…whether it is Hebrew scriptures, Christian scriptures, or Muslim scriptures, they speak about justice,” says Rev. Anthony Everett of the Wesleyan United Methodist Church in Lexington.

“People who are NOT the most violent should have opportunities to support their families and live a better life….No one should be judged by the single worst thing they’ve done in life. We are more complete than that,” added Mr. Preston.

The next #PrayerinAction day is scheduled for February 14, 2017 in the Capitol Annex at 9:30am. The topic is “Gun Violence.” Room is TBA. Check for information on #PrayerInAction origins, additional dates and topics.

Kentucky Council of Churches is a 501(c)3 organization in Kentucky with eleven member denominations including Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations.

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