General Assembly passed bill which would increase penalties for adults who recruit gang members

04/13/2018 10:20 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would impose harsher penalties for adults who recruit individuals, including kids, for gangs has been passed by the Kentucky General Assembly on Friday.

House Bill 169, sponsored by Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make it a felony to recruit gang members. The bill was passed on a 21-17 vote with six Republicans, Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville and Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, joining 12 Democrats in voting no, while the House passed the bill with a 59 to 30 vote.

In addition, a provision of the bill requires that anyone who is found to be a member of a criminal gang at the time of commission of a felony, and who is subsequently convicted of a felony that puts the public at risk, would be sentenced to a penalty that is one class higher than the penalty provision pertaining to the felony offense he or she was convicted of, unless the person is determined to be a persistent felony offender.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, says that the legislation tends to target African Americans and fails to offer additional services that could work to keep persons from being involved with gangs to begin with.

“We’ve seen these tough on crime bills come to us since the beginning of this nation, and invariably what these tough on crimes wind up being tough on are minorities,” Thomas said.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, is concerned about the lack of research involved with the legislation and the collateral damage the bill would have to black communities across the state.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, who is a retired law enforcement officer, spoke in favor of the legislation saying that it’s all about holding people accountable for their actions.

“When you boil it all down, people have a very fundamentally different way of looking at these problems,” Schickel said. “What people are demanding is that these violent criminals be held accountable for their terrible actions.

The bill now goes to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk.

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not list Sen. Julie Raque Adams as voting against the bill, the story has been updated to reflect her no vote.


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