The Second Chance Act will improve lives and reduce recidivism

Rehabilitation and reintegration into society are not just words:

Social, economic and environmental factors play a bigger role in a person’s health outcomes, they argue. Housing, employment, education, transportation and access to healthy food are known as “social determinants of health.”

But people with criminal records face barriers to accessing some key health determinants, such as housing and employment. The “Second Chance Act” moving through the North Carolina legislature would help remove some barriers for people with certain nonviolent criminal records and make it easier for these folks to access the things that make them healthier.

Everybody reading this has broken the law at one point or another. And most of us have actually endangered the lives of others in doing so (driving while impaired, excessive speeding). Making a living and caring for your family is difficult enough in today's economy, and it's virtually impossible to do so with a criminal record. This bill would provide some relief from that:

People with certain misdemeanor and felony charges that took place when a person was 16 or 17 years old would be eligible for expungement under the Raise the Age law that was passed in 2017.

The bill would also expand the types of offenses eligible for expungement after a certain amount of time of good behavior. It would allow people with nonviolent misdemeanor convictions to petition for expungement after five years, and those with nonviolent felony convictions to do so after 10 years.

While these expunged records would not be available to the public, nothing in the proposed legislation would prevent district attorneys and the courts from considering a prior conviction if a person breaks the law again.

We also need to "ban the box," stop employers from asking if people had ever been convicted of a crime. That may be even tougher to get conservatives to sign off on, but it shouldn't be. It's a personal privacy issue, and if you think about it, it also has the taint of "government picking winners & losers." But it would take a genuine Conservative or Libertarian to recognize that, and these days those are rare animals. Most of those who claim to be are more concerned with dividing our society than they are principled stands.

Prove me wrong, Republicans.