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April 4, 2009

"We Deserve Our Lives Back"

The title of this post is the name of this website.  Here is its mission statement:

We Deserve Our Lives Back is a non-profit organization established to locate bills/laws that work in conjunction with second chance agencies in providing a re-entry plateau for ex-offenders.  Our mission is to reduce recidivism by conversing, petitioning and sharing information through media outlets.  Our efforts need your assistance, we are one, yet together we are many, who deserve to have our lives back.  Gainful and meaningful employment is a stepping stone but a career is what we strive to regain.  We don’t ask that you level the playing field, we just want the opportunity to play.

Here is the start of the text of an e-mail I received asking me to spotlight this website in conjunction with an effort to generate support for a federal bill to enable expungement of a federal conviction:

I am writing to solicit your organization's support on behalf of the thousands of young men and women who, having been convicted of a Federal Felony 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. There is currently no appeal process for this life sentence.

I am speaking of the first time, non-violent offender who, due to the current federal policy, must spend the rest of their lives bearing the stigma of a federal felony conviction. Some of these offenders are only sentenced to probationary periods of six to twelve months so little was their involvement. Yet they must suffer the same life sentence as one who committed a much more serious violent crime. This is not justice.

Under current federal law, punishment for a felony offense amounts to a life sentence even though the offender has supposedly “paid his full debt to society.” Most, if not all, states provide a path for the expungement of criminal records for non-violent offenders when certain requirements are met.... In the case of a federal charge, no such avenues exist. Once a person is convicted of a federal felony their record cannot be expunged, not even by Presidential pardon. This is one of the most unjust and unfair practices in this country. A first time, non-violent offender who has paid their full debt deserves a second chance....

Therefore I am asking that your organization support H. R. 1529 sponsored by Congressman Charles Rangel. Previous versions of this bill have been allowed to die in committee. This cannot be to happen again. This is one of the most human and humane pieces of legislation that I have ever seen. The positive impact of this bill is incalculable. It is only right and just that federal law also allow former offenders the ability to lead productive lives without the stigma of a felony conviction haunting and handicapping them for the rest of their life.

Please post a link on your site to "We Deserve Our Lives Back," where a petition may be signed in support of this bill.  Urge your members to follow this with personal letters, e-mail and phone calls to their individual representative. Contact information for all members of congress can be found at the following site. You may also contact your representative through this site.

The concept of “permanent punishment” with no hope of restoration for a non-violent first offender is void of any of the commonly held concepts of fairness.  Compassion and mercy should not be viewed as being “soft on crime.”

April 4, 2009 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Thank a lawyer. Try hiring a felon and have something go wrong. Then defend the negligent hiring decision in the civil suit. The future employer will need legal immunity from the negligent hiring claim.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2009 7:53:06 PM

your other alternative is hiring a prescription pill junkie, who never gets charged, such as S.C. hereinabove, and dealing with him and his uncontrolled impulses.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Apr 5, 2009 7:25:33 AM

In response to S.C. The future employer would not have known (and could not have been expected to know) that the employee was an ex-con, since his records would have been expunged. So how could there be a legal claim against the employer?

Posted by: Ex-Offender | Apr 5, 2009 12:02:03 PM

With the rise of the internet, employer liability (and insurance costs), the "life sentence" is something that should be seriously and soberly looked at.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 5, 2009 12:50:53 PM

Ex-offender: Discovery and research into the background of the negligent employee. Will the police resist a court order and face contempt to protect an offender. The arrest is in the public record. The trial and conviction are in the public record.

Many people mature (about half), and do not deserve the burden of a youthful mistake. Any organization promoting such expungement should review a statutory remedy to the problem of future liability by employers, landlords, anyone lending a car (negligent entrustment). You need to review the entire project with a brutally candid lawyer who will think as the adversary might. Without open ended, and automatic liability, the American public is very forgiving. Anyone seeking to improve themselves will find the American people enthusiastic, supportive, and glad of the improvement. Get rid of the lawyer weasel who will destroy your plans by enacting immunity.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 5, 2009 8:41:21 PM

Because of racial disparities in arrest and conviction rates, any regulation or other rule against ex-offenders will be racially discriminatory.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 5, 2009 8:44:13 PM

PLEASE ask every woman, man and teenager to contact their House & Senate Representative (every day if possible) and create a tidal wave of support for getting this Bill signed into Law. This bill has died every year since 2005 in the Senate & White House. - H.R. 1529 - The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 [HR 1529] would permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses. Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 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 satisfied all the requirements and contributes to the safety and health of his/her family and/or community. Supporting H.R. 1529 The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009 will help first-time offenders with reducing recidivism through work and satisfying employment opportunities for Ex-Offenders. 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 prison system and drives up costs. Without the possibility of expungement, first time offenders are doomed to a life of menial employment, government dependency or recidivism. Expungement as a legal remedy offers hope to those without access to decent employment.

Posted by: Michelle | Apr 8, 2009 2:11:12 PM

I am the author of the E-mail referenced above asking that We Deserve Our lives Back be highlighted, so while I am here let me recommend two more sites that are supporting this bill. BTW the numbers are growing. First the petition at Change.org called “A Second Chance for First Time Non-Violent Offenders second the new Yahoo Group called Support of HR 1529. Check them out.

I was really writing to respond to the comments by “Supremacy Claus” but since his blog no longer exists it seems that he was just a drive by with nothing useful to add. He was wrong by the way. He says thank a lawyer but a big part of the problem in the first place is incompetent defense lawyers and less than honorable, self serving prosecutors. Like doctors, someone graduated at the bottom of the law school class so believe it or not and contrary to what many of them believe there are no Perry Masons out there. Prosecutors have got to stop looking for Al Capone under every woodpile and start thinking Martha Stewart. Their only interest is in locking up large numbers for their own glorification. It does not sound to me like “Supremacy” (choice of name interesting also Hmmmm? Look at me, top of the heap) has ever read the bill. It is not a free ride, applies only to first time non-violent offenders, must be applied for and reviewed by the sentencing court where some will be denied for various reasons and if the offender should slip again is completely reversed. The offender must have completed his entire sentence, including any period of probation, which would tend to weed out those that may regress, before they can even apply for expungement. Again, “Supremacy” is thinking Al Capone and I am seeing the 20-year-old young woman whose involvement in a drug offense was so little that the result was only twelve months probation. Does she deserve to be punished for the rest of her life? I say no.

Many cases that result in a felony conviction in the federal system would have been handled with pre-trial intervention in State Courts where, after an appropriate period the record would be sealed. I am reminded of a famous professional wrestler who, in the state of Georgia was charged with 13 felony counts for drug related issues. His penalty, a $1000 fine and 3 years probation. Same crime in federal court, well you figure it out.

Many states have a means for a reformed ex-offender to have their record expunged. What is the difference? Last time I looked the federal system includes the “several states” that make up this country. “Supremacy” needs to get off of his high horse and try being human and humane for a change.

No, for sure I am not a lawyer. Simply a citizen who cares about what is right and just and was once a soldier who swore to “Protect and Defend” a system that has become so corrupted by some of its participants as to defy belief. We must put it right again.

Posted by: Thomas Kinney | Jun 1, 2009 5:49:21 PM

Well said Thomas! I couldn't have said it better. If anyone has an issue with this bill without reading it. It is only a couple of pages and is very cut and dry as to who would be effected, and how. Please read it and contemplate it before you react. We are not talking about letting murders, child abusers, or any violent criminal be effected by this bill. No one will get their sentace reduced either. They will still have to serve their entire sentance, pay all fines and restitution as ordered by our justice system. They will even have to complete an additional year of community service, plus pay a fee for the expungment. Each and everyone of us have made mistakes, small and large. everyone deserves a second chance. I am not saying three or four chances, just a second one. I too am a veteran and am disgusted with our unjust jusitce system.

Posted by: Lee Ann DelMonte | Jun 1, 2009 9:38:37 PM

I want to thank our community for speaking up. We need to support each other but we also need to stop supporting any agency that does not hire non-violent offenders. I have said this on many other blogs and sites; no one cares about us we must go beyond just blogging and writing people who H.R. 1529 does not affect. It must be done in a peaceful manner no one needs to be arrested and jeopardize their right to benefit from H.R. 1529. We need to eat breath and sleep H.R. 1529. We need to find out which insurance companies view us as a liability and force companies not to hire us. Those insurance companies promote recidivism and unemployment. There are millions of us out there and one by one Thomas Kinney and I are getting e-mails from people that are willing to take a peaceful stand to regain their lives back. Our community keeps me going I am aware that many of us can not come out; you can lend your support by spreading the word. We need individual’s visible people in numbers to branch out for our community. I can be reached at [email protected] OR 201-966-1251. Please do not give up lets depend on each other… welcome to our community.

Sincerely,
Jaime Woodard

Posted by: jaime woodard | Jun 2, 2009 12:27:22 AM

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