A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Letter to Editor: More than 100 Kentucky groups urge lawmakers to reject House Bill 5

A diverse coalition of more than 100 Kentucky organizations, including faith, housing, justice, mental health, recovery and community groups sent the following letter to the Kentucky State Senate, calling on them to reject the harmful policies in House Bill 5. The letter was sent on Feb. 12. 

To the members of the Kentucky General Assembly: 

All Kentuckians deserve to feel safe in their communities, but the proposals in House Bill 5 are counterproductive and harmful. This bill will make life harder for struggling citizens, further crowd our jails and prisons, and take resources away from investments that prevent crime, thereby endangering community safety, not promoting it. 

Decades of research show that increasing incarceration is not making us safer, with more and longer sentences failing to deter crime. These measures weaken and separate families and make reentry more difficult.

HB 5 threatens to worsen Kentucky’s overdose crisis, increase homelessness, increase pretrial detention and deepen hardship for those already struggling. 

Much of HB 5 will also disproportionately harm Black and Brown Kentuckians, who are already over-represented in the state’s criminal legal system.

The tax dollars needed to implement HB 5 would be better used on proven, crime-preventing strategies. Kentucky legislators should build on past successes by expanding harm reduction and community mental health services, reforming the Good Samaritan law to help prevent more overdose deaths by better protecting those who call for help and automating expungement to support successful reentry after incarceration.

We all care about the safety of Kentuckians, but more incarceration and criminalization will not achieve that. We urge the General Assembly to reject this harmful, costly and ineffective approach, and work with community leaders, experts and those who have direct experience with the problems the bill seeks to address to craft better solutions that can benefit all Kentuckians. 

We, the undersigned, adamantly oppose passage of HB 5 as passed by the House.

Abolish Slavery KY
ACLU of Kentucky
Advocacy Action Network
Advocacy Based on Lived Experience (ABLE)
African American Studies program – Spalding University
Americana Community Center
Appalshop Community Media Initiative
Berea Friends Meeting
Black Leadership Action Coalition of Kentucky (BLACK)
Black Lives Matter Louisville
Bluegrass Activist Alliance
Boyle Justice Advocates
Bridgeport Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Buddhist Justice Collective
Catholic Action Center
Center for Accessible Living
Central KY Housing and Homeless Initiative
Clark County Homeless Coalition
Coalition for the Homeless
Cycle Breakers Breaking Chains Inc.
Eastern Kentucky SURJ
Embrace Church
EmpowHER with Open Arms
Episcopal Diocese of Lexington
Exodus Family Ministries
FADD-Families Against Deadly Drugs
Fairness Campaign
Family Health Centers, Inc.
Feed Louisville
Forward Justice Action Network
Forward Kentucky
Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
Gateway Homeless Coalition
Heartland Conference, United Church of Christ
Highland Baptist Church Anti-Racism Team
Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky
Hood to the Holler
House of Ruth
Jim Boyd Law Office
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (KACDL)
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Kentucky Committee to End Executions (KCEE)
Kentucky Conservation Committee
Kentucky Council of Churches
Kentucky Criminal Justice Forums (KCJF)
Kentucky Equal Justice Center
Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics and Education (KYFREE)
Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition
Kentucky Health Justice Network
Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign
Kentucky Psychological Association
Kentucky Society for Clinical Social Work
Kentucky State AFL-CIO
Kentucky Voices for Health
Kentucky Women’s Network
Kept Inc
Lexington Rescue Mission
Life Coach Each One Teach One Reentry Fellowship
Louisville Family Justice Advocates
Louisville Outreach for the Unsheltered
Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice
Louisville Urban League
Madison County Tenants Union
Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio
Metro United Way
Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Mission Behind Bars and Beyond
NAMI Lexington
NAMI Kentucky
National Association of Social Workers – Kentucky Chapter
National Council of Jewish Women, Louisville Section
New Beginnings, Bluegrass, Inc.
No More Red Dots Inc
NonViolent Owensboro
Paducah Diversity Advocacy Board
People Advocating Recovery
Pointer Adventures
Prison Policy Initiative
Progress Kentucky
Quaker Committee on Kentucky Legislation
Robert Jamison Ministries, Inc.
Sierra Club Kentucky
Smart Justice Advocates
St John Center
St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Somerset
St. Vincent de Paul Louisville
SURJ Kentucky
The 490 Project
The Bail Project
The Chad Lake Foundation (CLF)
The Prisoner’s Hope
The Revolution KY
Union Church, Berea
UP for Women and Children
Voices of Hope-Lexington Inc.
Welcome House KY
Wellspring, Inc.
Young Adult Development in Action, Inc.
Young People In Recovery

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  1. Ruth Bamberger says:

    These groups represent thousands of Kentuckians, and the legislature should be listening to those on the front lines who work with the homeless, victims of addiction, and other problems often not of their own making,… I also note in today’s Tribune the public opinion poll noting that a large majority of respondents think that DEI decisions should be left to institutions and organizations. The KY legislature is so out of touch with the people they claim to represent. I will be e-mailing these articles to my representativess, and hope that Tribune readers do the same.

  2. Lane Crawley says:

    House Bill 5 is an attempt to to effect many issues that are hurting Kentuckians. As a result of having too many issues addressed in one bill the Legislature may miss getting the results of a really good Crime Bill.
    While this Debate goes on the Killing Fields of Louisville and Lexington continue as shootings happen weekly in both Cities.
    It’s time to enact Law that addresses Violent Gun Crime. It all starts with too many Felons Possessing Firearms the punishment must be increased to where it actually has an overall decreasing crime effect. Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon must carry a C Class Felony Punishment or Greater and there must be mandatory minimum time served. Too many Felons are committing too many repeat Gun Crimes and the Revolving Door of Judges Allowing this must be Stopped.
    All Gun Crimes start with a person that should not be Possessing a Firearm. In Kentucky the Punishment for a Felon Possessing an Assault Rifle is a D Class Felony the lowest Level of Felony in the KY Penal Code. If caught these Felons very seldom serve any time as plea deals allow them right back out on the streets to quickly find another Rifle or Pistol to Commit another Crime. KY Poss of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon Laws are so Weak that Criminals don’t even hesitate to find new Guns to Commit More Crimes. House Bill 5 Fails if this Issue is not addressed.
    Get the Guns Away from Felons.
    Stop the Revolving Jail Doors with Mandatory minimum Gun Crime Sentences.
    This is how you reduce Gun Murders, Armed Robberies, Armed Carjackings, Drive by Gang Shootings and Many more Violent Crimes. It all Starts with a Felon Possessing a Gun.

    Chief Lane Crawley (Ret.)
    Scott Co, Kentucky

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