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Kentucky Labor Secretary Talks Incarceration and Labor Force Participation

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Kentucky’s Labor Secretary said the state has one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the nation. Derrick Ramsey said an estimated 200,000 people left the workforce after the 2008 recession and haven’t yet returned. But he said the recession isn’t the only reason the state’s labor force participation is so low.

“Further numbers that are worthy of conversation, the penal system,” he said. “We have 26,000 people that are incarcerated in our state today and that number keeps growing quicker and faster than one could even imagine.”

Ramsey said the incarcerated population is also an important element of Kentucky’s future employment picture. He said there are currently 26,000 people incarcerated in Kentucky, and that number keeps growing.

He added that 16,000 people were released from the state’s jails last year, and those are people who could be working and contributing to the economy. He said Governor Matt Bevin wants the state to be known as a second chance state.


“We as a commonwealth, we as a state have to start looking at things differently because 95 to 97 percent of these people that are incarcerated will be coming back home,” he told WKU Public Radio.

Ramsey said it’s important for people who are released from jail or prison to have family support, transportation and a job. He said the state is hoping to help provide some of those things with their Justice to Journeyman program. The program began last year and helps inmates earn credentials in a skilled trade and offers networking opportunities with private sector employers who’ve agreed to consider hiring former felons.

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