Expungement can help restore critical job, education, and civic options for people with a criminal conviction who want to put it behind them.
Facing pressure from justice advocates and lawmakers, the Small Business Administration has announced key changes to its rules regulating who is eligible for accessing COVID-related stimulus funds from Washington.
Many Oklahomans are familiar with the horrific 1980’s era murders of Ada residents Denise Haraway and Debbie Carter. The shocking brutality of the crimes and the relative tranquility of the small town they occurred in created a media sensation, and immense pressure to find the killers.
Following a unanimous vote, the North Carolina General Assembly has joined 30 other states, including Oklahoma, in passing a record number of bills over 2019 and 2020 that make it easier for people with criminal records to expunge past mistakes and move on with their lives.
In fact, a criminal record in America leads to an endless array of restrictions and outright prohibitions on voting, obtaining college and small-business loans, and finding employment.
It took hardly the blink of an eye for 16-year-old Cyntoia Brown to pull the trigger of a handgun her pimp had given her and end the life of a 43-year-old man she said paid $150 to have sex with her. Tennessee Prosecutors said she ruthlessly robbed and murdered the man. She was sentenced to life in prison.
An estimated one in three Americans have some sort of criminal record. Vincent Bragg is one of them. In 2001, he was convicted of running a multimillion-dollar drug empire and spent five years in prison for it. After he was released, he wanted to turn his life around, so he did what many Americans do: he started his own business.
Felons in the United States face everyday barriers not experienced by most Americans. They endure restrictions on jury service, participating in elections, purchasing a firearm, accessing higher education, obtaining housing, and perhaps most importantly, acquiring the professional licenses and certifications often required for select career paths in the United States.
Shortly after taking over as director of the FBI in 1987, career civil servant and former federal judge William Sessions found himself in a difficult position. The then-Democratic senator of Oklahoma, David Boren, wanted him to expunge thousands of classified FBI documents totalling over 10,000 pages of bureau records.
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The Sooner State’s rate of incarceration was an eye-popping 80 percent higher than the rest of the nation in 2014, and an estimated one of every 12 people in Oklahoma is a convicted felon. As a result, Oklahomans are more likely to have criminal records that serve as barriers to re-entering public life than people in other states. So when voters in Oklahoma four years ago began passing a series of criminal-justice reform laws, the message was clear: the grim statistics were no longer sustainable for both taxpayers and convicts and their loved ones.
The State of Oklahoma’s historically strict approach to law and order has culminated in an incarceration rate today that vastly outpaces that of the rest of the United States and all other developed countries, making it one of the most punitive places on earth. Its out-sized prisoner and convict populations are attributable in part to Oklahoma’s long, bruising, and failed war on drugs, which has now impacted generations of people.
A DUI can complicate many parts of your life, including your ability to get a job or an apartment. If you have a DUI arrest or conviction that is causing you problems, an expungement may be the answer.
Even a misdemeanor conviction can cause you serious problem long after your conviction. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor that has led to issues with jobs, housing, or school, an expungement may be the answer.
House Bill 1269 would require the re-sentencing of drug offenders convicted before State Question 780 went into effect on July 1, 2017. The bill would apply to inmates whose crimes were reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors by the referendum. There are around 1,300 Oklahomans currently incarcerated for simple drug possession.
The US Supreme Court has applied the 8th Amendment to states and prohibits excessive fines and restricts civil forfeitures:
When I worked as a prosecutor, my approach for non-violent defendants was rehabilitation, not incarceration. Incarceration does not rehabilitate a person who has a drug problem and once a person who is incarcerated for a drug-related/induced offense is released from prison, they don’t have the tools necessary to get meaningful employment or reintegrate into society.