NC SECOND CHANCE BULLETIN: Advocating for Justice + Bipartisan Support for Criminal Justice Reform + Photos from Lobby Day!

May 24, 2017

Advocating for Justice: Directly-affected individuals lead the charge
By Miea A. Walker, MSW
In the early morning of Tuesday, April 25th, people from across the state began to descend upon Raleigh, North Carolina, to participate in Lobby Day 2017. There was an electric feeling in the air; anticipation of being in a room full of activists who were seeking justice for their loved ones, families, and communities.

Yet it was the voices of those directly impacted by the criminal justice system that people were most anxious to hear. Several people shared their story of pain, resilience, and the human capacity to fight for their right to a second chance. They expressed hope to move past the stigma of having a criminal record so that everyone would have the opportunity for a second chance.

However, they also acknowledged the ones they left behind, wondering what will become of those still entrapped in a broken system that refuses to see them as people. It will take the collective voices of everyone to ensure the policies which impact those with a criminal record are just and fair.

Bipartisan Support for Criminal Justice Reform

The following bills were the focus of Lobby Day, and below you'll find a summary of where matters stand at the General Assembly.

  • HB 280 & SB 564 (Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act): Bills will raise the age for adult criminal prosecution for misdemeanors and certain felonies from 16 to 18 years old. Pending in House & Senate. NOT subject to crossover deadline since an appropriation is in the bills. HB 280 received favorable reports from House Judiciary 1 and Appropriations Committees last week and should be voted on by the House on May 17.
  • HB 409 (State Agencies/Adjust Hiring Practices): Delays asking about criminal record for state job applicants. Passed House overwhelmingly. Pending in the Senate.
  • HB 216 (DOC & JJ Combined Records): Requires Clerk to send certified Expunction Orders to Combined Records AND SBI.  Passed House. Pending in Senate Rules.
  • SB 445 (Expungement Process Modification): Reduces wait time from 15 years to 5 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for felonies. Removes limit of 1 expunction for dismissed charges. Provides DAs with access to expunction if person is re-arrested. This is the bill we have been working on for two sessions. Passed the Senate 47-2 on April 26. Pending in the House.
  • SB 561 (Expunction-Charges Dismissed/Not Guilty): Removes limit of 1 expunction of dismissed charges. Passed the Senate. Pending in the House.
  • HB 571 (Automatic Expunction/Wrongful Conviction): Provides automatic expunction if wrongfully convicted.  Passed the House. Pending in the Senate.
  • SB 455 & HB 671 (Amend Certificate of Relief): Expands Certificates of Relief to multiple misdemeanors and felonies. Bills are NOT subject to crossover deadline since they contain a filing fee.

Advocating from Experience
By Corey Purdie
Your question to yourself may be: Is my voice relevant or does it even matter? My response is YES. It’s beyond relevant; it’s mandatory!

I was grateful for the opportunity to rally during Lobby Day and address the Senators on the various House bills associated with the Second Chance Alliance. Most formally incarcerated individuals have left their “word” to a former “celli” that when they get out they will reach back in and do what they can to make a direct impact on the internal situation and injustices within the system. Now it’s time to “Keep your Word.” In order to truly impact change, we need the voices, experiences, and skillset of the brothers and sisters who have exited the criminal justice system and become a strong asset to society.

At the age of 26, after serving eight years within DPS, I returned to my community facing rejections because of my past life. I have to thank God that there was a man God put in place to be that guidance and encouragement for me at the point when I thought that a "Second Chance" wasn’t feasible. Pastor Jeff Smith encouraged me with a scripture Jeremiah 29:11: ”I know the plans that I think towards you says the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”

He encouraged me to only look at my past as (1) a launching pad towards my designed future, and (2) a place to reach back and encourage or assist another brother or sister to transition into their Second Chance (or as Dennis Gaddy put it “another chance”).

Those who have made that positive transition home owe it to our fellow brothers and sisters who are still trapped and currently victim to the criminal justice system. We owe it to them to become active on some level of engagement. What better voice to represent than a familiar voice and Phoenix who personally knows the struggle.

As I go back inside through the various “prison ministries” month after month to encourage my brothers, I am constantly reminded by them to stay grounded and focus on using my current freedom and access to a variety of platforms within the community as tools for change!

As I see brothers that were once at Morganton Youth Institution with me at the age of 16 and are still there now at 40, I am reminded that I truly don’t deserve this freedom but more than less, I am graced with an opportunity to represent and be a voice for those who are silenced by the chains that restrain them.

In closing my plea is that every brother or sister who has made it out of the chains associated with the criminal Justice System, please consider using your platform as a sounding board for justice and second chances.

Corey Purdie has been involved in prison ministry for over 10 years. Through his non-profit organization Wash Away Unemployment, he works both inside and outside the prison walls to help meet the needs of the prison residents and returning citizens. Corey collaborates with organizations such as Jobs for Life, Transitional Aftercare Network, and the Craven-Pamlico County Reentry Council to provide workforce development training, mentorship, housing, and transportation to returning citizens to help them get over these hurdles and start their lives.

My Lobby Day Experience
By Marianna Chriscoe
The 2017 Second Chance Lobby Day offered many firsts for me, but it wasn't the first time I have been around the wonderful people in our community who truly care about those who have been affected by our criminal justice system.

I feel blessed knowing that there are so many people fighting for this cause and that I have been able to be a part of it. During Lobby Day, several individuals who have been directly impacted stood before the crowd and told their stories. Every story had different details, but they would not be where they are if it weren’t for their tenacity and others who believed in them. The truth is that any of us could find ourselves in that position at some point in our lives because we are human. I was able to recognize that when two people who are very close to me found themselves in that dark place. I fought and continue to fight to be the light in their lives and in others’ lives as well. I believe in my friends because I know their heart and circumstances; how they appear on paper does not define their character.  

My favorite part of Lobby Day was when we walked to the legislative building. Daniel Bowes introduced me to Judge Warren, head of the Administrative Office of the Courts. I was able to tell Judge Warren that we need increased Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Courts in North Carolina. I am in favor of more of these courts because I have been interning at a Treatment Court in Harnett County. I am going to school for social work and I loved being able to put together my experience in the field and education on policy. I am hopeful that the establishment of more recovery courts will divert individuals away from the criminal justice system. I think it’s a good start.

I know that advocating for this population is what I am meant to do and I am extremely passionate about the work. The Second Chance community in Wake County are family to me and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be if those coming back home to us could feel the same comfort. We’ve got work to do!

Karol Davis' Passion for Reentry

April 25 was an adventurous day of community service, while lobbying with our North Carolina Legislators for the needs of returning citizens. The Onslow-Jones Reentry Resource Council (ORR), one of the Local Reentry Councils (LRC) in Eastern North Carolina, was honored to be invited to set up a display table to showcase services provided by our community stakeholders for returning citizens.

The morning began with an informative presentation from (CSI) and many inspiring testimonies from successful returning citizens. Several of the advocates from our community attended and were enthusiastic to speak with local legislators to advocate for several important bills such as Ban the Box, which has already passed the House.

As we proudly staffed the resource table, we met many state stakeholders from other communities, giving us an opportunity to explain programs available in our region. Advocates listened and learned how the bills are passed in committees. It was a wonderful day of fellowship and networking with like-minded people with the hope to restore dignity by helping returning citizens reconnect to society in a positive manner.

Photos from Second Chance Lobby Day

 

        
        
        
        

 

 

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