I am writing on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who, having been convicted of a Misdemeanor, and regardless of the sentence handed down by the courts and having “paid their debt to society”, are also being handed a hidden life sentence that is not a part of any judicial proceeding
A first time, offender who has paid their full debt deserves a second chance. They deserve an opportunity to earn their lives back. These people are not “hardened criminals.” Rather they are quite ordinary people who have made a bad decision. They know it, they take full responsibility for their actions and they are full of remorse for the pain that they have caused to their families. Many too are so called “white collar” offenders who had very good jobs before they made a mistake. Even someone like Martha Stewart fits this category. However, unlike Ms. Stewart most of these people do not have a merchandising empire to fall back on. Most will never be able to regain their previous position. They are disenfranchised in too many ways to enumerate here
Even US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has championed the need for more carrots as we have so many sticks. So many of these young men and women who have non-violent convictions for example – marijuana possession, are given probation sentences. They graduate with Master's degrees, or Law, or Science, or Education degrees, but they cannot even get a job working in a Walmart or volunteering to tutor children - all because of their Misdemeanor conviction. these well educated and qualified young people could make a difference in their communities. Instead the current system gives them the Stick - a permanent life sentence. They drift from one underemployment job to next, if they can find one, for the rest of their lives.
There is much rhetoric from many in the justice system and Congress, about how much is being done to rehabilitate those who have committed a crime, how much is being done to prepare them for their return to society. These are hollow, meaningless words when the reality is that we do everything possible to hamper previous offenders from regaining a productive place in society. Then we raise a hue and cry about how high the recidivism rate is.
The concept of “permanent punishment” with no hope of restoration for a first-time offender is void of any of the commonly held concepts of fairness. This bill is not a Democrat/Republican, Conservative/Liberal, or Black/Latino/White. Rather it is simply doing the right thing - the human and humane thing.
first time offenders a chance to seal or expunge record
There are hundreds of thousands of ex-offenders who are, in effect, serving a life sentence without having been sentenced to such by any court. I am speaking of the first time, offender who, due to the current Judicial system, must spend the rest of their lives bearing the stigma of a Misdemeanor conviction. Not even a Presidential pardon will clear an offender’s name. This gross miscarriage of justice must be changed.
This bill is win, win. It will cost the taxpayer practically nothing to implement and, by reducing recidivism, will reduce the cost to taxpayers of further incarceration of those individuals who will now be able to lead successful lives.
This is not a free ride. It is only an opportunity for a first time, non violent ex-offender to earn a second chance.
This most worthy legislation is in dire jeopardy. It has become apparent that the sponsor of this legislation, Congressman Rangel, has abandoned all efforts to support this bill. This is evidenced by the fact that this version of the Bill , unlike four out of five predecessors, has no co-sponsors and repeated efforts by supporters to find out why go unanswered. Letters to Congressman Rangel, Judiciary Chairman Congressman Conyers and others and three visits by a supporter to Rep. Rangel's New York office have produced no response.