Commentary

Legislature advances another promising criminal justice reform bill

The Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project applauds and congratulates Senator Andy Wells (R-Alexander, Catawba), Senator Warren Daniel (R-Avery, Burke, Caldwell), Rep. Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), and Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) for their successful efforts to advance Senate Bill 584 Criminal Law Reform.

After passing the Senate earlier this session, SB 584 is now moving through the House—the bill received a favorable report from the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and is expected to pass the House with bipartisan support.

SB 584 is intended to limit the ability of local governments and state agencies to create criminal laws through local ordinances and rule making, respectively. It’s a crucial part of a broader bipartisan movement in North Carolina and across the country to clarify and otherwise limit what behaviors and acts constitute a crime and are subject to criminal penalties like incarceration.

There is growing consensus across the political spectrum that there are too many criminal laws that punish individuals and derail lives unnecessarily and without warning. SB 584 recognizes the incredible impact of criminal punishments and takes reasonable measures to restrict the authority to criminalize behaviors to the state legislature rather than delegating that authority haphazardly.

Below is the summary bill analysis for SB 584. Read more

Commentary

President Obama announces bipartisan progress in addressing America’s prison problem

Second chancesLast week, President Obama announced several executive actions aimed at promoting the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into communities across the nation. The announcement came in response to consistent pressure from advocates, including the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance, and follows a growing trend among states of reducing barriers to reentry and otherwise restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records.

Standing before a crowd of formerly incarcerated individuals, reentry service providers, business and community leaders in Newark, New Jersey, President Obama cited some of our criminal justice system’s more startling statistics:

  • 2.2 million Americans—disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos— are currently behind bars
  • The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its inmates
  • More than 600,000 inmates are released each year
  • one in three adults of working age—or 70 million Americans—have a criminal record

As the President explained in his description of what life with a criminal record can mean:

“A lot of times that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty getting their foot in the door to try to get a job, much less actually hanging onto that job. That’s bad for not only those individual— it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for our communities who need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure that Americans that have paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”

Towards this goal of restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for deserving community members, President Obama announced the following measures: Read more