Goodwill Industries Continues Kentucky Reentry Programs During Pandemic

May 26, 2020

Credit Courtesy of Goodwill

Efforts to help individuals with criminal records are continuing in Kentucky despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Goodwill Industries of Kentucky is still offering services like expungement clinics, its soft skills academy, and its Louisville-based RISE program through virtual methods.

Normally, individuals who complete Goodwill's RISE Louisville program would gather in-person for the week-long class. It provides students information on topics like computer lieracy, banking and wellness.

Goodwill Industries of Kentucky Director of Reentry Services Dennis Ritchie said the group worked to make sure people could still access their classes once they went online.

"To get virutal services and trainings into facilities in the state, and to help out while they, especially while they don't have any programming, and are kind of stuck right now, is we've actually taken a laptop to the facilitie and our IT department set those laptops up," Ritchie said.

Ritchie said, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodwill had also started providing prison programming and reentry similuations for employers and local officials to understand the challenges people returning to society face.

He said the closure of retail stores across the state has cut into the funding used for these efforts making their availability into the summer tenous.

They're still getting by for now, however. There were 16 regional expungement clinics planned for the year. Goodwill and its partners for those, the Kentucky Legal Aid Society groups, had to push them to Zoom after completing only two in person.

Despite the challenge, dozens of participants joined recently to learn how they can have an old arrest or conviction scrubbed from their record.

"You cannot have any current or pending misdemeanor charges. And then you also cannot have any felony or misdemeanor convictions in the five years prior to filing," attorney Kristy Vick-Stratton of the Bowling Green-based Kentucky Legal Aid said during the webinar.

With the job market projected to get tighter, having a clean background may become vital. But, Ritchie said it's deeper than that.

"You know, your sentence is what your sentence is, and it's kind of unjust and inequitable to punish somebody for life," Ritchie said.

Ritchie said having a felony record can also impact housing assistance, insurance and banking.