Local advocates hope to push change in criminal justice reform with Smart Justice Act

Published: Dec. 14, 2019 at 10:16 PM CST
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With a full crowd in attendance for a ACLU criminal justice reform event, you could hear story, after story, on why state lawmakers should end mass incarcerations, especially for those striving for a second chance. A pain Evan Ward knows all too well, he was denied a job opportunity because he checked the felony box.

"Incarceration does effect everybody, i mean you may never been but you know somebody who has or you know someone that's been on probation," said Ward.

Ward was released from prison a few months ago, he's hoping others won't have to endure his struggle with trying to get back on their feet after their time is served.

Vernon Smart is still paying off fines from his DUI, but is unable to get a car or a get a job because was on probation. He's advocating the criminal justice system needs to be changed on how's it set up or the ways it's ran.

"A lot of us deal with being on probation, a lot of us deal with checking that box, a lot of us deal with the whole felony situation and a lot of it is not even for a violent crime," said Smart.

That's why the ACLU of Kansas hopes lobbying the Smart Justice Act can bring change. Last year 41,000 Kansans were behind bars or under criminal justice supervision.

Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau says it's this type of energy and these testimony's she hopes people can bring to the state capitol to begin the process for change, at the next legislative session.

"Follow through, they've got to come to topeka, and let their voices be heard by the legislatures that can vote for effective policy and procedure," says Faust-Goudeau.

Ward says that's what they intend to do, take a bus load of people to the state capitol for next month's legislative session.

Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau says before that session, people in Sedgwick County can have their voices heard with the South Central Legislative Delegation on January, 7th, 2020 at 6pm, at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N Main St, Wichita, KS.