Second Chance Act (2009)
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Update: H.R. 2065, The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2011
Update: H.R. 1529, The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009
On March 16, 2009, Congressman Charles B. Rangel [D-NY] sponsored and introduced The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 [HR 1529] which would permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses. Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 - It amends the federal criminal code to allow an individual to file a petition for expungement of a record of conviction for a nonviolent criminal offense if such individual has:
(1) never been convicted of a violent offense and has never been convicted of a nonviolent offense other than the one for which expungement is sought;
(2) fulfilled all requirements of the sentence of the court in which conviction was obtained;
(3) remained free from dependency on or abuse of alcohol or a controlled substance for a minimum of one year and has been rehabilitated, to the court's satisfaction, if so required by the terms of supervised release;
(4) obtained a high school diploma or completed a high school equivalency program ; and
(5) completed at least one year of community service.
Status of the Legislation. Latest Major Action: As of 11 July 2011[update]: Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.'
- Update: In 2008, there were two bills entitled "The Second Chance Act (SCA)" (both are mentioned below). The Second Chance Act by Congressman Davis was passed and signed into law by President Bush - who had requested such legislation as early as 2004.
- Due to a lack of organization of supporters at a grassroots level, the SCA by Congressman Rangel failed to gather sufficient Members to get out of committee. Congressman Rangel office staffers have indicated intent to re-introduce the bill in the 111th Congress.
The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2007 (H.R. 623), titled "To permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses" is a bill submitted to the United States House of Representatives by Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) to amend the federal criminal code to allow an individual to file a petition for expungement of a record of conviction for certain nonviolent criminal offenses. The resolution was introduced on January 22, 2007.
Overview of H.R. 623
The bill specifies five criteria that individuals must meet in order to qualify for the Second Chance Act. They are:
- No convictions for a violent offense and no conviction for a nonviolent offense other than the one they are trying to expunge.
- Must have fulfilled all requirements of their sentence.
- Must have remained free from drug or alcohol dependency for at least one year and have been rehabilitated to the court's satisfaction, if that is part of their sentence.
- Must have obtained a high school diploma or GED.
- Must have completed at least one year of community service, as determined by the court.
Nonviolent offenses are defined by the Act as "a misdemeanor or felony offense... [that does not involve] the use of a weapon or violence and which did not actually involve violence in its commission."
The bill divides the procedure into two components. First, the offender may file a petition for expungement in the court where the record was obtained, with a copy sent to the United States District Attorney of that district. Within sixty days, the District Attorney may make a recommendation to the court and notify the offender of the recommendation. Next, the court delivers a ruling after considering evidence submitted by both the offender and District Attorney or other government agencies. The court will take into consideration the offender's eligibility as per the bill's qualifications, and also whether expunging their record will have an adverse effect on the public good or safety.
Upon expungement, all records pertaining to the criminal offense, except publicly available court opinions and appeal documents, would be sealed. Ex-offenders would no longer be required to divulge information related to the expunged conviction. Their status as ex-offenders would not be grounds to disqualify them from any profession. However, a nonpublic record of a disposition or conviction would still be retained by the Department of Justice for use in any subsequent legal action.
The Department of Justice would maintain nonpublic manual or computerized index of expunged records containing former offenders names and contact information for the agency, office, or department with custody of the expunged records for contact purposes. The former offender would be required to make their records available in the following scenarios:
- To the licensing agency or office when attempting to obtain a license to carry a firearm;
- To law enforcement when involved in a criminal investigation;
- To any city, state, or federal employers when applying for a job in those fields related to investigation or prosecution of people under civil or criminal statues, such as a police officer.
Anyone other than the offender disclosing information about their expunged criminal offense would be subject to fine or imprisonment for up to a year.
Any subsequent conviction, at either Federal or State level, would result in a restoration of the expunged record.
Including Rep. Rangel, the resolution has, as of June 2008, eighteen co-sponsors, most of whom are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and/or the Congressional Black Caucus or Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They are:
110th Congress actions
The resolution was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, chaired by Congressman Robert C. Scott, in March 2007.
By August 2007, neither the subcommittee nor the full Judiciary Committee, chaired by Congressman John Conyers, had scheduled a hearing on the resolution.
The primary arguments made by Rep. Rangel and supporters of the bill have been economic: by forcing all federal ex-offenders, including those who only offended once, those convicted of non-violent crimes, and those whose offense may have occurred years or even decades ago) to reveal their status to prospective employers severely limits their job opportunities after release. In many cases, this lack of job stability perpetuates a cycle of poverty and other forms of disenfranchisement, becoming a major contributor to recidivism, which in turn increases demands on the resources of the federal prison system and drives up prison costs. The goal of the legislation would be to reward non-violent felons for good behavior and a demonstrated desire and commitment to rehabilitating themselves by assisting them in re-establishing themselves as full members of their communities. Expunging criminal records would carry other benefits as well, removing or dramatically minimizing obstacles towards obtaining housing, education, and the restoration of voting rights.
Another point raised by Rangel has been that serious problems with the federal justice system, such as mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which he alleges are responsible for sending a disproportionate number of women and minorities to prison, could be combated through his bill by making it easier for offenders to move on after their release, rather than being continually reminded of, and being forced to pay, for their past crimes.
HR 623 has received strong support from various grassroots organizations working with prisoners, former prisoners and ex-offenders, including the Prison Fellowship International-affiliated-Justice Fellowship, the Chabad-affiliated-Aleph Institute, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, FedCure.org, Crimnion International, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, and Offender Aid & Restoration.
"Almost all states have in place a system of expunging records or providing a meaningful chance for ex-offenders to rebuild their life. The federal government has no such system. Therefore, I introduced H.R. 623 , the Second Chance Act of 2007, which provides that federal ex-offenders have the same second chance as many state offenders."- Rep. Charles Rangel, Jun 5, 2007.
"Individuals released from prison have no chance of becoming productive members of society because their criminal records prevent employers from considering them for jobs. This leads many of them to return to lives of crime. In an effort to change the dynamic of recidivism, we must remove barriers to employment—particularly criminal records—which hang over the heads of ex-offenders, even those who have been rehabilitated. The Second Chance Act allocates $360 million towards programs that would help the ex-offenders adjust to their new environment after their release from prison. Focusing on four different areas: employment, housing, access to health services and families, it would provide a secure setting for the individual and make the transition easier, which would reduce the rate of recidivism."- Rep. Charles Rangel, Jul 27, 2007.
"The reality is that there are limited prospects for persons with criminal records. Each time they acknowledge their criminal pasts on job applications, they are likely to be turned away. H.R. 623 would remove this barrier of the past and lower the rates of recidivism by offering these individuals real opportunities for gaining legitimate employment..."- Rep. Charles Rangel, Mar 12, 2007.
623 record, Library of Congress.
- Restorative Justice
- Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, an equivalent law passed by the British House of Commons