The House Judiciary Committee is considering Senate Bill 11 at the 12PM meeting on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. This bill would increase the power landlords already have over their tenants, increase the number of incarcerated people in Kentucky, further clog our criminal legal system, and burden taxpayers.

ACLU-KY Smart Justice Field Organizer Amanda Hall would have testified against the bill in normal circumstances. However, the Capitol and committee rooms are closed to the public due to COVID-19. Lawmakers continue to advance bills behind closed doors with no input from the people who elected them. Read what Amanda would have said below.

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My name is Amanda Hall and I’m the Smart Justice Field Organizer at the ACLU of Kentucky. Unfortunately, I am not able to attend House Judiciary in person, but I want to share information regarding SB 11.

SB 11 will hurt Kentuckians. This bill can be used as a way to intimidate tenants. Unscrupulous landlords would be able to scare tenants with the fear of criminal prosecution. Right now, we are in the middle of a pandemic and thousands of Kentuckians are more vulnerable than ever before. Subsequently, our nation and Commonwealth are helping individuals during this trying time. Some cities are encouraging landlords to pause evictions to keep our citizens safely housed and to protect the general public. This bill does the opposite. 

Senate Bill 11 will install a fear in Kentuckians of not only losing their housing, but also going to jail. Our criminal legal system is already pushed beyond capacity. Our jails are dangerously overcrowded. Many people are forced to sleep on the floor and suffer in unhygienic environments. We should not be considering ways to increase the number of incarcerated Kentuckians. Instead, we must find ways to support and care for our fellow Kentuckians. Every year there are speeches about reducing incarceration and the need to create fewer felony offenses. Why then, are we considering yet another bill that increases incarceration and will force more Kentuckians to suffer the life-long consequences of a felony conviction? 

Additionally, Senate Bill 11 will further strain prosecutors, judges and other various stakeholders in the criminal legal system. Disputes between landlords and tenants should not be handled in the criminal system. These cases will be cumbersome and continue to clog our system. SB 11 will impact Kentuckians who are simply accused of breaking the law even when they are innocent. Further, the most innocent among us, children, will be negatively impacted by this measure if their parents lose housing or face incarceration.  

Last, incarcerating someone puts more burden on the taxpayer. The people of Kentucky should not be on the hook for matters that can be settled in civil court. When the incarcerated individual gets out of jail, they will be burdened down with court costs and fees, supervision fees and regulations, and many other hurdles.

I believe in accountability and making amends, but SB 11 is not the way to do it. We need to move toward a restorative justice approach instead of the usual punitive measures that we so often take. Do not punish the taxpayers, the economy, and families. Please vote NO on SB 11.