Experts Propose Support, Awareness To Address Human Trafficking Saturday, Jan 18 2020 

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Human trafficking affects a large number of Kentuckians, due in part to the commonwealth’s location, poverty and homelessness. Victims’ advocates and a U of L researcher say more community support and awareness would help them better address the problem. The panel spoke on WFPL’s In Conversation on Friday. 

The guests were:

  • Jaime Thompson, Program Director at People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) Coalition of Kentucky
  • Summer Dickerson, Founder of the Women of the Well Ministry 
  • Dr. Jennifer Middleton, Director of the University of Louisville’s Human Trafficking Research Initiative
In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), People Against Trafficking Humans Coalition of Kentucky Director Jaime Thompson (center) and Women of the Well Ministry Founder Summer Dickerson (right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), People Against Trafficking Humans Coalition of Kentucky Director Jaime Thompson (center) and Women of the Well Ministry Founder Summer Dickerson (right)

Dr. Jennifer Middleton said human trafficking affects people the commonwealth. Kentucky youth are especially vulnerable to the crime, according to Middleton’s research, which found that many victims interacted with the child welfare system before being trafficked.

“When we think about enhancing training for child welfare workers and first responders, it’s important for us to focus on those red flags and training them on how to respond,” Middleton said. “We really also need to make sure that we have trauma-informed services in place for [victims].”

Women of the Well Ministry Founder Summer Dickerson is a human trafficking survivor, and her organization supports victims of the crime. Dickerson said many victims consider trafficking as a way of life, and many have no safe place to go if they escape.

“I would like to see us be able to get a better regulation on things and for people to get a better understanding, because what’s the point of trying to help a victim and you put them right back in a situation where they’re getting pimped out?” Dickerson asked. “We have to touch all the other issues surrounding [human trafficking] as well. That way, maybe we can even prevent it from becoming a human trafficking situation.”

Jaime Thompson, Program Director at People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) Coalition of Kentucky, said there has been a rise in the number of open human trafficking cases in Kentucky. Thompson’s organization raises awareness about human trafficking and supports organizations and initiatives working to curb the crime, and she said residents can help by looking for signs that someone is being trafficked.

“If they’re not able to make eye contact … if they don’t have identification, if they’re not able to answer questions, if they’re also disheveled or they look in a certain demeanor that they could be being harmed: these are all red flags that you want to ask for,” Thompson said.

This Week In Conversation: Human Trafficking In the Commonwealth Monday, Jan 13 2020 

Kentucky is often called a focal point for human trafficking, due in part to the state’s interstate system, poverty and youth homelessness.  State and local advocates hope to raise awareness on the issue and connect victims to services. 

A lack of awareness means the crime often goes unreported. 

The Kentucky Department of Education defines human trafficking as: exploiting someone for labor and/or commercial sex, through “fraud, force, or coercion, making it modern day slavery.”

Research cited by the University of Louisville’s Human Trafficking Research Initiative found that 98 percent of trafficking victims in the nation are women or girls. Kentucky youth are especially vulnerable, due in part to high rates of youth homelessness, child maltreatment, and poverty. 

State and local officials have worked over time to deter human trafficking, passing the Human Trafficking Victims’ Rights Act in 2013 and creating the Office of Child Abuse & Human Trafficking Prevention & Prosecution in 2016. Governor Andy Beshear also proclaimed January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” during a Capitol event last week, and Attorney General Daniel Cameron pledged to provide resources to law enforcement tackling the issue.

Some officials say events like the Kentucky Derby can present challenges to law enforcement trying to prevent trafficking — though others say it does not increase during the Derby and other major sporting events. 

This week on In Conversation, we discuss human trafficking in Kentucky, what research says about the crime, and what resources are available for victims. Our guests include Summer Dickerson, founder of the Women of the Well Ministry that helps human trafficking survivors.

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

 

Advocates Say Expanding And Easing The Expungement Process Would Benefit Kentuckians Friday, Jan 10 2020 

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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.

 

 

This Week In Conversation: The Case For Criminal Record Expungement Tuesday, Jan 7 2020 

A criminal record can prevent many people from obtaining housing, voting, or finding jobs. Efforts to make it easier to expunge some records have increased in recent years, but advocates say more work should be done to improve access to record expungement.

Kentucky passed its felony expungement law in 2016, allowing an estimated 91,000 people with some class D felonies to expunge their records. The law required that those Kentuckians stay out of trouble for five years, and pay a $500 application fee for felonies or $100 for misdemeanors. A 2019 law expanded the legislation to include some non-violent, non-sexual Class D felonies for expungement, and lowered the fee to $250

Local organizations like the Louisville Urban League have offered free expungement services, finding support among philanthropists and Greater Louisville Inc. officials, who say expanded felony expungement could improve Kentucky’s economy. But expungement is still unaffordable for some, and advocates say more progress could be made to expand access in Kentucky.

This week on In Conversation, we discuss criminal record expungement, how it works, who is eligible for it, and what resources are available for those who qualify. Our guests include:

  • Iris Wilbur, Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Greater Louisville Inc.
  • Nick Maraman, Senior Attorney of the Legal Aid Society’s Economic Stability Unit

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Will Expanded Gaming Gain Traction In Kentucky? Saturday, Jan 4 2020 

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Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s platform on expanded gaming has support from some lawmakers this coming legislative session, but efforts to legalize casinos and other forms of gambling face tough opposition in the Republican-controlled legislature. 

The topic was discussed on WFPL’s In Conversation, which looked into expanded gaming and whether proposals for it have a chance in the 2020 General Assembly. Our guests were:

In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (Left), Kentucky Council On Problem Gambling President Dr. Herbert "Bud" Newman (center), Democratic State Representative Al Gentry (right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (Left), Kentucky Council On Problem Gambling President Dr. Herbert “Bud” Newman (center), Democratic State Representative Al Gentry (right)

Legislators have pre-filed four bills this upcoming legislative session that are related to expanded gaming. Those bills would allow casino gaming, sports wagering, online poker and more in the commonwealth. Democratic State Representative Al Gentry is sponsoring two of those bills and says he is co-sponsoring a third on sports betting. Gentry said Kentucky could raise much-needed revenue if it expanded gaming like neighboring Indiana.

“These revenus have created a brand-new sewer system in Harrison County [Indiana] — miles and miles of new water lines. Miles of new, paved roads that used to be rock … the results are amazing,” Gentry said. “If we can legalize and regulate the activity here, we can keep our discretional spending in this state, in this city, and we can address our residents that are really struggling with [gambling addiction] in a much better way.”

Kentucky Council On Problem Gambling President Dr. Herbert “Bud” Newman said his organization is neutral when it comes to gambling, and understands that businesses look to expanded gaming for more revenue. But Newman said the state should help treat people who suffer from addiction, too.

“When we increase the opportunities for gaming, we will also increase the number of folks who have some type of disorder gambling going on. And we need to be able to treat them,” Newman said. “The commonwealth has a responsibility, a social responsibility, to provide monies for prevention, awareness and treatment. The council would oppose any bill that came up that didn’t provide for that.”

Gentry said the proposed casino and sports betting bills would set aside money for such services. Kentucky Public Radio Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton said expanded gaming proposals would likely not become law because they face tough hurdles in the legislature, especially a measure that would put the matter on the ballot.

“Republican leaders in the legislature have said they are not interested at all in passing this bill, and this would be a constitutional amendment — it has a higher threshold that it needs to pass to pass out of the legislature,” Barton said. “So it appears that expanded gambling will be dead on arrival, however there are some other revenue raising proposals that lawmakers have been toying with.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about criminal record expungement.

This Week In Conversation: Does Expanded Gaming Have A Future In Kentucky? Tuesday, Dec 31 2019 

Since stepping in as Kentucky’s Governor, Andy Beshear has reshaped the state’s board of education, pledged to restart the bid process for Medicaid contracts and restored voting rights to 14,000 Kentuckians with non-violent felony convictions. But will Beshear’s platform on expanded gaming gain traction this legislative session?

Beshear said expanded gambling could be a revenue source to fund Kentucky’s pension system, and his campaign website, citing a 2011 study by the Spectrum Gaming Group, said fewer than 10 casinos could create more than $1.7 billion in economic activity in their first year. 

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said proposals to legalize sports betting might move forward this legislative session. But both Stivers and Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said in October that Beshear has overstated potential revenue that expanded casino gambling could offer, and told the Lexington Herald-Leader that proposals to legalize casino gambling are “off the table.”

This Week on In Conversation, we talk about the possibility of expanded gaming in Kentucky. What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of expanded gaming? How have other states dealt with expanded gaming? What do legislators expect when they meet in January?

Our guests include:

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

A Year In Conversation: A Few Of Our Favorite Shows From 2019 Friday, Dec 27 2019 

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In Conversation has covered a lot of topics since the show launched in January. This week, we looked back on some of our favorite shows of 2019.

They included our talk with officials about marijuana laws in Louisville and the rest of the state, our program with the University of Louisville’s president and her optimism for the school’s future, and our show with advocates who said more funding and support is needed to address homelessness in Louisville.

We talked in-depth with experts and officials about marijuana laws in September, and some believe  that Kentucky will eventually legalize recreational use of the drug. Louisville Metro Councilman Brandon Coan, who announced last month that he will not seek reelection, said there are benefits to legalizing marijuana.

“I think that the economic benefits that could result from legalization, or health benefits or some of those other benefits, are important, and things that we should continue to pursue,” Coan said during the show. “But I would be equally be as happy to see the state pursue the criminal justice kind of purpose that we looked at here in Louisville.”

University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi expressed optimism for the school’s future on In Conversation in August, adding that she plans to invest in security, affordability and faculty concerns at the school. Bendapudi has presided over high-profile changes, removing John Schnatter’s name from the school’s football stadium and business school, and helping to finalize the purchase of KentuckyOne Health Inc. properties. Those properties include the financially-troubled Jewish Hospital.

On our July program about homelessness, advocates said city officials have made strides toward addressing the situation in Louisville. The city has funneled more than $500,000 into low-barrier shelters and commissioned a study to find solutions. But the panel said more funding and support are needed, and Aaron Jones, who is transitioning out of homelessness, said anyone can help by simply asking what a homeless person’s needs are.

“Listen to what the person’s needs are, and then try to assess it from there,” Jones said on July’s show. “If I can help, I can help. If I can’t help, I’ll refer them to someone that has more professional advice than I do.”

This Week In Conversation: Our Favorite Shows Of 2019 Monday, Dec 23 2019 

In Conversation has invited more than a hundred guests to speak on dozens of topics since the show launched in January. This week, we look back at a few of our favorite shows.

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi joined In Conversation back in August to reflect on high-profile events she presided over, and she expressed optimism for the school’s future. Since Bendapudi was named university president last year, she has removed John Schnatter’s name from the school’s football stadium and business school, and helped to finalize the purchase of KentuckyOne Health Inc. properties — which include the financially-troubled Jewish Hospital.

This summer on the show, advocates talked about the city’s work to help its homeless population. Louisville funneled more than $500,000 into low-barrier shelters and other services in 2019, but the city continues to clear out homeless camps. Advocates said more funding and support is needed to address homelessness in Louisville, and former Metro Government Chief Resilience Officer Eric Friedlander said the city must expand affordable housing options.

“We [The United States] don’t view housing as a right and we don’t invest in affordable housing,” Friedlander said on the July 26 show. “We have thousands and thousands of units that are necessary to be able to address what is really an affordable housing crisis in Louisville and also an eviction crisis in Louisville.”

In September, the topic turned to marijuana. On a show that aired in September, state and local officials said they believed Kentucky could eventually legalize recreational use of the drug. Democratic State Representative Nima Kulkarni said most Kentuckians support legalizing marijuana, and Matt Simon with the nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project said Kentucky residents could especially benefit from legalization of the drug.

Listen to the pre-recorded In Conversation episode on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. Follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews, and share your comments by tweeting us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Panelists Say Some School Dress Codes Target Girls, Impeding Their Learning Saturday, Dec 21 2019 

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Controversy over girls being turned away from a homecoming dance this fall for short dresses has prompted a revision of the student dress code at Eastern High School. The school’s principal apologized for the incident and this month the school changed its dress code. Panelists on WFPL’s In Conversation talked about dress codes, and said some codes target girls and impede their learning. 

Our guests were:

  • Courier Journal Education Reporter Olivia Krauth
  • University of Louisville Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Chair Dawn Heinecken
  • Democratic State Representative Attica Scott
Democratic State Representative Attica Scott (top center), University of Louisville Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Chair Dawn Heinecken (left of center), In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left) and Courier Journal Education Reporter Olivia Krauth (right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Democratic State Representative Attica Scott (top center), University of Louisville Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Chair Dawn Heinecken (left of center), In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left) and Courier Journal Education Reporter Olivia Krauth (right)

Courier Journal Education Reporter Olivia Krauth’s reporting found that girls receive more violations in schools that don’t require uniforms. Krauth said those rules can be applied more subjectively, and sometimes students are suspended for violating dress codes.

“Generally it’s just a little bit of time out of class for somebody to bring them new clothes or to talk with a school administrator, nothing super serious,” Krauth said. “Then roughly a quarter or so end in some kind of detention, and eventually it does escalate to an in-school suspension.”

Dawn Heinecken, chair of the University of Louisville Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, said dress code punishments can negatively affect students’ mental health.

“That kind of sexual objectification and that kind of shaming, particularly as adolescent girls are maturing, can really be internalized in very damaging ways,” Heinecken said. “It can really make them feel uncomfortable about their body and feel shame about it … so this kind of shaming is only going to contribute to very serious mental health issues that young women often face.”

Democratic State Representative Attica Scott said schools could better address problem dress codes by involving students. Scott is sponsoring a bill that would ban discrimination based on a person’s hairstyle. It comes more than three years after parents and students said Butler Traditional High School’s dress code was racist. The policy, which banned dreadlocks, twists, braids and cornrows, was lifted.

“We have adults who are very disconnected and far removed from the classroom who are trying to make decisions on behalf of our kids,” Scott said. “We should really have policies that speak to recognizing that the way that someone dresses or the way that they wear their hair doesn’t have anything to do with their ability to learn and to be productive people who give back to our communities.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we look back on some of our favorite episodes from 2019.

This Week In Conversation: Are School Dress Codes Enforced Fairly? Tuesday, Dec 17 2019 

The principal of Louisville’s Eastern High School issued an apology after some girls from the school were turned away from their homecoming dance this fall because their dresses were too short, violating the school’s dress code. Some parents and students were particularly upset because hemlines were being measured by school officials before girls were allowed into the dance. The incident raised questions about whether dress codes in Jefferson County Public Schools are enforced fairly.

Schools within the Jefferson County Public Schools’ district are allowed to create their own dress codes. That has led to a range of rules and how they are enforced, and some parents have alleged the rules enforce sexism. Data on dress code violations in Jefferson County Public Schools finds girls are cited more often for dress code violations than boys among schools without uniforms, where dress codes can be applied more subjectively. 

The incident at Eastern is is not the first time a school in Jefferson County reevaluated its dress code amid controversy. Butler Traditional High School’s 2016 dress code banned dreadlocks, twists, braids and cornrows, drawing ire from students and parents who called the ban racist. The school’s policy was lifted, but Democratic State Representative Attica Scott says there should be a law that bans discrimination based on a person’s hairstyle. She’s sponsoring a bill to that effect in the 2020 legislative session. 

This week In Conversation, we’ll talk about dress codes in JCPS and other public and private school systems and how those rules are enforced. Our guests include:

  • Courier Journal Education Reporter Olivia Krauth
  • University of Louisville Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Chair Dawn Heinecken

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

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