Local groups are coming together to oppose a pending “anti-gang” bill and they are urging state lawmakers to kill the measure before the legislative session ends Saturday.
The bill, introduced Jan. 10, stiffens penalties for those engaging in gang activity or for committing a crime as part of a gang. The measure has passed the House and could be approved by the Senate as soon as Friday.
But the ACLU of Kentucky, Louisville’s Urban League and the Louisville branch of the NAACP are asking Kentucky lawmakers to reject the bill, citing concerns of its impact on African-Americans.
ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge said the bill would incarcerate more Kentuckians, cost $19 million and could disproportionately profile communities of color. He said it could also lead to more people getting involved with gangs.
“This is just really a step in the opposite direction. It doesn’t make sense,” Aldrige said. “(It) could lock more and more people up, which only increases gang-affiliation because a lot of people turn to gangs for safety and security when in prison or in jail.”
Kentucky’s incarceration rate already outpaces many other states, ranking 11th in the nation. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Sentencing Project, a non-profit focused on criminal justice reform, the state’s prison population was 21,697.
The “anti-gang” bill must still pass the Senate and would require a racial impact study as amended by Democratic Senator Gerald Neal. That study would gather and report data on how the bill might affect different races.
The final day of the legislative session, when legislators must decide the bill’s fate, is Saturday.
This story has been updated.