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Gov. Beshear, Department of Corrections Celebrates Second Chance Month

​Boosting workforce development, reducing recidivism, fighting addiction, enhancing public safety

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 6, 2023) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear is joining the nation in recognition of April being Second Chance Month by taking time to acknowledge the work being done to assist the justice-involved population with finding meaningful employment, addiction treatment and education.

Second Chance Month is designated by the President as a month to bring together communities and organizations throughout the nation to raise awareness of barriers that ex-offenders face upon reentering society. The goal is to show that those who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance at becoming successful law-abiding citizens. The communities benefit from joining in the effort because it allows the individual the ability to become a productive tax-paying member where they live.

The Governor said, to support our booming economy, fuel our workforce, fight the drug epidemic and reduce the chances of someone returning to prison, those who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance.

“My faith teaches me there are second chances in this life and that we are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers," said Gov. Beshear. “When we provide every Kentuckian with the resources they need to succeed, we all succeed – and the steps we've taken will help reduce crime, make our communities safer, create safe learning environments for our children, help those in need overcome addiction and increase employment."

According to the Department of Corrections (DOC), there are over 20,000 individuals serving felony convictions in state prisons or jails, as well as an additional 49,000 on active supervision with the Division of Probation and Parole. At least 95% of the state inmate population will be released from incarceration at some point. 

Currently, the DOC recidivism rate is at 27.15%, which is a historic low. In April 2022, the recidivism rate was 29.17%.

“DOC has never been more focused on providing the needed tools and support to those returning to live and work in their communities," said DOC Commissioner Cookie Crews. “We are extremely proud of the work being done by our dedicated employees in the Division of Reentry Services and for their tireless efforts in helping our inmate population with employment, addiction treatment, education and parenting resources. A better, safer Kentucky is being created and we are honored to be a part of that mission."

Before individuals are released from incarceration, Reentry Services staff are already paving the way for a smooth transition. In addition to offering programming that enhances knowledge, skills and pro-social behavior, staff work on addressing the population's practical needs. This includes Medicaid enrollment at the time of release, connecting with a care coordinator in the community to arrange future mental health appointments and providing clothing assistance.

Additionally, Reentry Services staff facilitate reentry simulation events for various groups including stakeholders, correctional employees and those studying criminal justice. These live simulations allow participants to experience real life scenarios focused on the complex challenges and barriers the justice-involved may face upon returning to society. Participants receive a fictional backstory and then work to find housing, transportation and employment in addition to attending treatment and reporting to their parole officer. These simulations offer a glimpse into the challenges the justice-involved face when they are released from incarcerations and work to create a greater understanding and awareness for participants.

Additionally, reentry events within the communities are held throughout the year as a way to increase accountability and identify needs that offenders may be struggling to meet in hopes of reducing their changes of returning to incarceration. In conjunction with community partners, the department hosts expungement sessions to assist offenders to determine expungement eligibility and provide a free record check. Job and resource fairs are also held so individuals can easily connect with resource providers and second chance employers who are ready to hire.

Building a Better, Safer Kentucky through Second Chances
Due to the leadership of the Beshear-Coleman administration, the Kentucky economy is booming, with a number of sectors showing growth through investments and job creation. By working together, the commonwealth is building a better Kentucky full of opportunity for all Kentuckians; and the state's commitment to offering second chances remains a priority. 

On his third day in office, Gov. Beshear restored voting rights to Kentuckians who had completed their sentences for nonviolent, nonsexual offenses. Now more than 187,000 Kentuckians' rights have been restored.

In Nov. 2022, the Governor announced two new programs aimed at boosting workforce participation by helping the justice-involved population who have paid their debt to society and are leaving prison to find meaningful employment. The administration in partnership with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has launched the Prison-to-Work Pipeline. Businesses located throughout Kentucky's 120 counties virtually interview inmates with the goal of the inmate being offered a start date before returning to society. The administration is also offering a virtual learning job skills program. By learning to overcome challenges through this virtual learning experience, inmates will develop the resiliency, perseverance and confidence needed to overcome real-life obstacles and help them answer job interview questions.

In Sept. 2021, Gov. Beshear announced that through a collaborative effort between state government, health care and the business community, the commonwealth had launched a new initiative to help employers address addiction, boost hiring and retention and support employees in the workplace. The initiative, known as the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program, is the result of legislation signed into law by the Governor following the passage of Senate Bill 191 in 2020.

In February 2021, the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and DOC announced a multi-agency collaboration to provide state identification cards for Kentucky's justice-involved population. The joint partnership between the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and Transportation Cabinet, with funding assistance from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, allows inmates being released from state custody to walk out of prison with a state ID card in hand. 

Kentucky has trained 4,000 business leaders across the commonwealth as second chance employers, provided 227 technical workshops and held 435 second chance employment job fairs, representing 7,500 jobs. One way is through the Strategic Initiative for Transformational Employment; a program where the state contracted to provide job specialists at 12 career centers located throughout the commonwealth to link individuals recently released from prison or in recovery from addiction with available jobs.

The administration is also working to prevent re-incarceration through a statewide project that provides transportation at no charge to former inmates so they can access substance abuse recovery facilities, medical appointments, job interviews, educational courses, probation and parole meetings and employment. DOC is partnering with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to serve nearly 50,000 Kentuckians, currently under the supervision of probation or parole, who can utilize this project.

In April 2021, the Governor signed House Bill 497 into law to remove barriers to reentry by tasking DOC with issuing certificates of employability to those who successfully complete programs while incarcerated. In addition, the bill incentivizes employers by providing liability protections and further encourages other important reentry supports such as IDs and better access to health care for people leaving incarceration. For a statement from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on HB 497 click here.

A few years ago, DOC received a grant from the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort to train four additional reentry staff to become certified job specialists. The DOC's Division of Reentry Services now employees 11 reentry employment specialists who are working with individuals scheduled to be released from prisons and linking them with available employment opportunities. Recently, DOC received additional grant funding to hire seven jail reentry coordinators to assist inmates being released from select local county jails who have a DOC contracted Substance Abuse Program.