RealClearPolitics: GOP Governors Push for Criminal Justice Reform


At the age of 18, West Powell stole two car radios. According to his testimony, given earlier this year at the Kentucky State Capitol, he was unable to afford one for his Chevy Cavalier and persuaded his brother to help him steal from a salvage yard in northern Kentucky.

Powell is now 45 years old, leading a crime-free life since his release from prison in the early ’90s and attempting to build a stable life. But his felony conviction makes it nearly impossible to find a job. He still struggles 27 years later with the burden of his nonviolent criminal record.

When he told his story to the Kentucky state Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel’s conservative chairman, Whitney Westerfield, a former prosecutor, decided to take action. He was determined to solve the challenges that prevent people such as Powell from returning to work and getting away from a continuing cycle of crime.

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