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HB 64 – Helping Former Felons Return to the Community26 Jan

UPDATE: 1/29 – House Judiciary members discussed HB 64 for nearly two hours on Wednesday before taking a vote. Thirteen members supported an amended version of the bill and sent it to the full House with a recommendation that the bill should pass. The amendments, however, drew heavy opposition from some members who had supported the legislation in the past. According to press reports the sponsor is working with some of those who raised objections and we expected the bill to be amended again so that it can pass the House and be sent to the Senate.

saylor

Wayne Saylor

Speaking in support of the bill was Wayne Saylor. As a young man he was convicted on a cocaine charge, served his time, and 29 years later is still a productive citizen in the community. But, in 2007, due to a layoff at his place of employment he had to seek work and his previous record, he discovered, still haunted him. Tearfully, he said, “A felony conviction is an economic death penalty.” He urged the committee members to join him in supporting the bill.

 

Will Scott

Will Scott

Also supporting was a father and a long-time resident of Kentucky. Will T. Scott told the committee he was not there as a sitting justice on the Supreme Court of Kentucky, or a former Circuit Court judge, or a former prosecutor, or former public defender, but that the years he has spent in the justice system in these various roles has had an impact on what he planned to say. His was a lesson in the need to give people a second chance and hope of redeeming themselves by expunging the record of those who have committed only one felony offense, who have served their time, and who have since spent at least five years crime free.

ACTION: Call 1.800.372.8181 and leave a message asking your State Representative to support HB 64 and amendments approved by the sponsor.

HOUSE BILL 64 – SUPPORT – Current state law allows persons convicted of misdemeanors to have their records expunged after meeting certain conditions. HB 64 expands the expungement process to include class D felons, those whose crimes are punished by sentences ranging between 1 and 5 years. To qualify to have a record expunged, the convicted person must fully complete the sentence ordered by the court and then not commit another crime for at least five years.

ACTION: Contact your State Representative by calling the message line – 1.800.372.7181 – and asking him or her to co-sponsor and support HB 64.

BACKGROUND:

Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or reintegration of all into the community. Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice ©2000 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This important statement on crime and criminal justice provides a framework for an approach to dealing with former offenders who are now returning to our communities. In 2005, as Congress was taking up a federal bill on prisoner re-entry, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, as chair of the USCCB’s Domestic Policy Committee, and Fr. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA wrote to the House Judiciary Chairman to support the bill. They quoted President George Bush’s State of the Union Address: “We know from long experience that if they can’t find work or a home or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison.”

That night the President also said: “America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”

But, returning felons often find out that this promise of a second chance and a better life is a false promise. According to a study by students at Chase Law School 119 of 130 provisions in the Kentucky Administrative Regulations involve bars to employment. Convicted persons who have paid their debt to society still face the collateral consequences, often for life.

These collateral consequences are not limited to employment. Attached to this post is a document describing HB 64 in detail and listing other ways in which they are blocked from full re-entry into our communities.

Expungement of felony convictions, once certain conditions are met, will enable former offenders to be more productive citizens, pay taxes and meet family obligations as it helps them obtain and maintain employment. As the father in the parable welcomed home his prodigal son, support for HB 64 is a way for us to welcome home those who have made serious mistakes and help them rebuild their lives.

Graphic: By Vectorportal (Vectorportal.com). [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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