We all strive to move forward in life, yet not everyone has the same opportunity.
I was blessed with an education and a long career at Brown-Forman, our family's business, that has participated in the success of an industry that represents Kentucky's heritage and future.
While our family has grown into an international company, we still see the commonwealth as our home and are committed to supporting a higher quality of life for our fellow Kentuckians. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak on behalf of those whose opportunities have been curtailed due to past mistakes.
What is the cost to society when a person is being continually punished for a crime even after they have served their sentence and paid their debt?
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Today, the quality of life for some of our fellow Kentuckians is permanently damaged due to a past criminal conviction. Just one mistake can result in an individual being labeled a felon the rest of his or her life.
Class D felonies include offenses like writing bad checks, drug possession or using a fake ID.
All of these are serious offenses, but most of us believe these are offenses from which someone can recover.
Unfortunately, our laws don't always allow for that.
A felony sentence stretches far beyond an individual's time behind bars or whatever punishment they are required to undergo. Felonies in Kentucky are almost never eligible for expungement. A felony conviction puts people on a pathway with few ways to exit.
Certain convictions result in ineligibility for a number of professions, including those that involve a commercial driver's license, like truck driving. Then there are the professional licenses — for example, a felony conviction can undermine a barber's or cosmetologist's ability to work in Kentucky.
Many professions are out of reach without a higher education, and a felony conviction will almost certainly result in ineligibility for federal student loans.
Furthermore, thousands of employers are burdened by rules in public contracts that prevent them from hiring individuals with felony convictions.
Kentucky's laws have been written so that there are too many dead-end paths and not enough ways to get out, thus creating an ongoing cost to society.
The prohibition on expungements not only hurts our workforce, it undermines our values. None of us are perfect. I have made a few mistakes in my day, but I am fortunate enough not to be burdened by them for life.
We must be able to hold people accountable, but not all criminal convictions should permanently stand in the way of someone's ability to earn success.
Please support the efforts to pass the expungement bill in the 2016 legislative session by contacting your representatives in both the House and Senate and letting them know we need to give people back their dignity and create an opportunity for success.