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Criminal Justice Advocates Lobby For “Second Chance” Bills At NCGA

Source: NC Newsline

North Carolinians from around the state gathered in front of the General Assembly on April 30 for the annual Second Chance Lobby Day to draw attention to the hurdles that previously incarcerated people can face when trying to re-enter society.

“Currently, we make life very difficult for people coming out of the justice system – more difficult than most of us can even imagine,” said state Senator Julie Mayfield, a Democrat from Buncombe County. 

“These folks face discrimination in jobs and housing. They may face fines and fees that begin accruing often when they are in jail or prison and quickly become unmanageable,” she said. “We then allow garnishment of hard-earned wages to help pay those fines and fees, keeping people in poverty.”

Advocates urged passage of a series of “Second Chance” bills that would help those who have served their time more easily return to community life. 

These bills include House Bill 888, which would ban the government from suspending someone’s driver’s license because they failed to show up to court or missed payment of a fine, and Senate Bill 565 which would make fixes to how records are automatically expunged.

House Bill 778 would prevent law enforcement offices from selling mugshots to tabloids and prevent said tabloids from charging people to remove their photographs. It would also require publications to remove and destroy mugshots of people cleared of charges.

“The publication of these mugshots is for no other reason than to dehumanize and exploit people to make a spectacle, and to charge a fee to remove them from the websites,” said state Rep. Terry Brown, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County.

Philip Cooper, head of Operation Gateway, an advocacy group that helps former offenders re-enter society, noted the need for reform.
“If we want to be able to have a job with upward mobility so that we can take care of our families, so that we can own a home, so that we can go to our kids’ soccer games, so that we can go to community events and afford the opportunity to participate in the economic mainstream, then we have to see this issue…as an economic issue,” he said.


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