By Reggie Smith

As a strong advocate for young adults, I am grateful to acknowledge the recent passing of SB 195 during the 2017 Kentucky legislative session. This bill provides youth with the opportunity to expunge certain felonies off of their criminal record. In 2016, the General Assembly passed HB 40 to allow adults to expunge certain felonies; youth, however, were still not allowed to expunge a number of felonies. SB 195 closed that gap for youth.

SB 195 will help thousands of youth adults in Kentucky by making it easier for them to find a job, obtain housing, and pursue an education. In addition, this bill will strengthen communities because it rejuvenates young adults with a sense of hope, inspiration, and motivation to make changes in their lives and surrounding environment.

Anyone like me who has had kids, has coached kids, or mentored kids, knows that kids make mistakes. Although we want them to learn from their mistakes, they shouldn’t become a barrier that impedes their entire future success.

SB 200, passed in 2014, restricted the use of detention of youth for lower-level offenses. This law was intended to reduce recidivism (committing another offense) of youth by providing community-level, wrap-around services that train and guide them to be more responsible citizens. As part of the community, I think it is each of our responsibilities to provide these young adults with ongoing support, advocacy, and resources to prevent them from making poor life-altering decisions, and instead, offer them opportunities that open the doors for a positive future. Youth make mistakes and should be held accountable for their actions, but we can’t reprimand them for wanting to restructure their lives. Senate Bill 195, which recently went into effect, allows young adults to have a second chance to become productive members of society.

Reggie Smith is a Youth Services Coordinator at YouthBuild Louisville. He is a strong advocate for youth in the community. Reggie is currently pursuing his Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling. His goal is to start a local non-profit organization and provide counseling services to at-risk youth in the Louisville community.