In Conversation

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Kentuckians and the state’s economy would benefit from expanding criminal record expungement laws, according to panelists on WFPL’s In Conversation. Guests talked about how the expungement process works, who is eligible and what resources are available for people who qualify.

Our guests included:

  • Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Education Branch Manager Melanie Foote
  • ACLU of Kentucky Field Organizer for Juvenile Justice Keturah Herron
  • Greater Louisville Inc. Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy Iris Wilbur
  • Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney Jenn Perkins

Melanie Foote, the Education Branch Manager for Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy, said the expungement process can be difficult.

“No matter how hard we try to explain the legal process to people, there’s going to be something that falls through the cracks,” Foote said. “Automatic expungement of dismissals and other cases, hopefully at some point convictions, will probably reduce some of that stress on everyone involved — including the courts.”

In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), ACLU of Kentucky Field Organizer for Juvenile Justice Keturah Herron (top left), Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney Jenn Perkins (top center), Greater Louisville Inc. Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy Iris Wilbur (top right), Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Education Branch Manager Melanie Foote (bottom right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), ACLU of Kentucky Field Organizer for Juvenile Justice Keturah Herron (top left), Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney Jenn Perkins (top center), Greater Louisville Inc. Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy Iris Wilbur (top right), Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Education Branch Manager Melanie Foote (bottom right)

Many people go to the Legal Aid Society for help, and Staff Attorney Jenn Perkins said their office has handled more expungement cases as the law has changed over time.

“Back in 2017, right after the law changed, we did about 346 expungements for the year. And in this past year we did a total of 687,” Perkins said. 

Iris Wilbur, Greater Louisville Inc.’s Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy, estimated that more than 3,000 Kentuckians have expunged their records since state law made them eligible in 2016. Wilbur said businesses would benefit if more people can expunge their records.

“If individuals want to show up to work and they’re qualified, right now, that is the top need amongst many employers throughout the region,” Wilbur said. “It’s just being able to get applicants through the door right now. So increasing those opportunities is significant for not only workforce development, but talent and retention throughout the region.”

Record expungement has social benefits too, said ACLU of Kentucky Field Organizer for Juvenile Justice Keturah Herron.

“We want people to be able to work. We want people to be able to take care of their kids and take care of themselves,” Herron said. “They are our neighbors. They are going to be paying taxes. How can we assist and help them to do that?”

Information on upcoming expungement clinics is at the Department of Public Advocacy’s website here. Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about human trafficking.