Rep. Jason Nemes

“They walk redlined streets that lead to few opportunities. Their unemployment rate is chronically high. We have failed them,” Nemes said.

The gang bill is expected to cost Kentucky about $19.5 million. If lawmakers were serious about reducing gang activity, Nemes suggested the legislature would be pouring more funding into services that could help vulnerable children and young adults.

“We’d put more money in gyms, in tutoring, in counseling, in school nurses,” he said. “We would build more drug treatment centers and properly resource our schools in these impoverished areas…We wouldn’t build more and more prison cells and throw these young people’s lives away.”