A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bevin participates in prisoner re-entry summit in D.C., says prisoner’s need to be assimilated into workforce

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Matt Bevin met Thursday with Trump administration officials in what he described as a prisoner re-entry summit with members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, and fellow Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas among the participants. 
“The two people who really shepherded the process were Jared Kushner and Reed Cordish, who are involved in policy decisions at the White House,” Bevin said.

Bevin told Kentucky Today the meeting was an outgrowth of a conversation he had with President Trump several months ago about labor force and workforce development and Kentucky’s apprenticeship program for prison inmates.

Gov. Bevin

“In that meeting, I asked him if we could talk about one of the most untapped sources of potential labor in this nation, where we might not be doing as good a job as we should, and that is people coming out of the prison system,” he said.

Bevin said President Trump and others in the meeting listened and were intrigued since 2 million are in prison with 95 percent of those getting out with the need to be assimilated into the workforce.

The National Urban League, the Center for Criminal Justice Reform and various public policy foundations were also represented at the nearly 2 ½-hour meeting, he said.

“It was a good collection of thoughtful people,” Bevin said.  “We talked through all sorts of things and came up with next steps.  I’m encouraged by it.”

The governor said Kentucky is “moving to the front of the line as far as influence in America on business development, economic development, criminal justice and educational development.”

Bevin commended the Trump administration for looking at possible solutions to the prison re-entry system.

“The Trump administration is moving at 100 miles per hour on a lot of very good, substantive things, like workforce development, prison re-entry, how we engage people who have been basically marginalized for a long time,” he said. “All these things are inter-related. The commitment of this administration’s employees is incredible.”

Bevin said Kentucky’s programs added much to the summit’s think tank.

“Kentucky is doing as much or more than anyone on this front,” he said.  “We talked about the expungement bill, the banning of the box from applications for a state job, our Justice to Journeyman program, where in four of our youth detention centers and three of our adult prisons, people can become certified journeymen in a number of trades.”

Bevin said justice reform needs to be discussed on a nationwide basis.

“We have five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s inmates.  We’re good at incarcerating,” he said. ”But we’re not necessarily good at rehabilitating or re-assimilating.  Those two are just as important as removing.” 

Texas, he said, serves as an example of how it can be done.

“They are actually shrinking the prison population, while still being the fastest-growing state in America.  And their crime rate is down by a third the last 10 to 15 years.  If you come up with programs that allow people to become productive citizens, part of their community and the fabric of their society, they’re less likely to get in trouble, so crime rates are going to go down, and the economy is going to be stronger for it.”

A capable workforce can be developed through the prisoners who are awaiting re-entry into society, he said.

“We have millions of jobs unfilled in America and millions of able-bodied people sitting in prison,” Bevin said.  “How about if you connect those dots? That’s really what the purpose of this conversation was all about.  To me, it’s been a long time coming and the Trump administrations is the first ever to take this seriously at the federal level.”   

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  1. Marv Dunn says:

    I think the Governor has a good idea here. I can’t believe I just said that!

  2. CR Liberty says:

    Just think if marijuana were sold in stores and not in streets. We have our police arresting every 50 seconds in America for marijuana. What an incredible waste of our resources. Creating a criminal once every 50 seconds, we have 20 trillion debt we are paying for the waste of writing arrest reports, prosecutions, court proceedings, probation, etc. etc…

    Marijuana Prohibition does far more harm than marijuana ever could.

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