— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) July 28, 2017
Throughout the 2017-2018 legislative session, members of the NC Second Chance Alliance walked the halls of the NC General Assembly to share their personal reentry stories and speak out in support of specific second chance bills. At the biannual Second Chance Lobby Day, hundreds of Alliance members met with legislators and asked them to support a range of bills.
We are thankful that several bipartisan bills that restore opportunities for people with criminal records or prevent people from getting a criminal record passed the legislature and were signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper, including legislation expanding eligibility for criminal record expungement, raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, significantly increasing access to certificates of relief, and establishing a state reentry council to generate additional recommendations for legislation reforms to promote successful reentry.
At a signing ceremony attended by many Alliance members (and captured in the Tweet above), Governor Cooper signed Session Law 2017-195 which significantly expanded expunction eligibility as well as a proclamation celebrating the age of juvenile jurisdiction increasing from age 15 to age 17 beginning in December 2019.
In 2019, members of the NC Second Chance Alliance are building on these legislative achievements with a renewed commitment to expanding opportunities for prosperity to people with criminal records. Our 2019 advocacy agenda is below and includes updates and advocacy tools and resources.
During the 2019-2020 Legislative session, the NC Second Chance Alliance is asking members of the NC General Assembly to continue to expand access to certificates of relief by (a) reducing the waiting period for certain people exiting prison and (b) allowing eligible individuals to petition for relief in the jurisdiction where their most serious conviction occurred.
In 2011, members of the Alliance worked with Rep. David Guice (R-Transylvania) to pass Session Law 2011-21 Certificates of Relief from Collateral Consequences which allows people with first-time convictions to petition the convicting court for relief from most automatic civil disabilities triggered by a criminal record. A certificate of relief also makes it easier for a person to find a job or housing because it protects employers and landlords who hire or lease to a certificate holder from negligence liability. Alliance members support expanding eligibility for Certificates of Relief from Collateral Consequences from first-time convictions to multiple and Class G-I felony convictions.
SUCCESS!!! On June 15, 2018, the NC General Assembly expanded access to Certificates of Relief, passing HB 774 by unanimous votes in both the NC House and Senate. Governor Cooper signed the bill into law and it went into effect on December 1, 2018.
This bill, for which members of the NC Second Chance Alliance fiercely advocated during several legislative sessions, provides judges the discretion to reduce civil barriers to employment, housing, and other essential resources by issuing certificates of relief to significantly more individuals that are currently in need.
HB 774 was successful because people with criminal records walked the halls of the North Carolina legislative building and described their struggles to find employment, housing, and other basic opportunities to their lawmakers. Their voices were supported and uplifted by a coalition of impacted family members, civil rights and racial justice advocates, congregations, employers, law enforcement officials, and state and local elected officials asking state legislators to restore basic economic opportunities by replacing automatic exclusions with individualized and fair assessments.
A bipartisan group of legislators were responsive to this human need as well as the opportunity to reduce recidivism by restoring opportunities for prosperity, including Senators Shirley Randleman, Warren Daniel, Floyd McKissick, Tamara Barringer, and Brent Jackson, and Representatives John Faircloth, Chuck McGrady, Sara Stevens, John Hardister, and Pricey Harrison.
During the 2019-2020 Legislative session, the NC Second Chance Alliance is the NC General Assembly to continue to expand access to certificates of relief by reducing the waiting period for eligibility for people exiting prison and allow eligible individuals to petition for relief where their most serious conviction occurred (the current law requires an eligible person to apply for a certificate of relief in each jurisdiction where a conviction occurred).
Advocacy Tools and Resources
- Media Statement: Bipartisan passage of Certificates of Relief Bill is a positive step forward for North Carolinians with criminal records
- Legislative 1-pager, “Expand Certificates of Relief”
- “The Effectiveness of Certificates of Relief as Collateral Consequences Relief Mechanisms: An Experimental Study,” Yale Law & Policy Review, Nov. 7, 2016.
- The Chief Justice’s Equal Access to Justice Commission issued a resolution in March 2017 urging the General Assembly to expand eligibility for Certificates of Relief from Collateral Consequences
- North Carolina Leadership Forum: First-Year Report and Policy Briefs
Too often, people with criminal records are automatically denied jobs by private and public employers. “Fair Chance” hiring policies ensure each job applicant’s skills and credentials for the specific job or occupational license are considered before the person’s criminal record is reviewed. When the applicant’s criminal record is reviewed, it is considered fairly, including how long ago the conviction occurred, the seriousness of the conviction, and the connection between the conviction and the job.
Last year, Representatives Turner, Hardister, Grange, and Pierce introduced legislation (House Bill 409) establishing a fair chance hiring policy for public employment in North Carolina. HB 409 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 98-14, but died in the Senate without a hearing.
- NC Second Chance Alliance member Corey Purdie is lead a successful grass roots campaign for the City of New Bern to adopt a fair chance hiring policy for public employment with the City of New Bern.
- SCA co-founder Dennis Gaddy and Community Success Initiative were awarded funding from Wake County to identify and recognize private employers using fair chance hiring policies. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is leading a similar campaign asking businesses and nonprofits to adopt inclusive hiring practices through its “Fair Chance Business Certification” program.
Advocacy Tools and Resources
- Local Ban the Box 1-pager
- SCSJ Fair Chance Business Certification
- “Ban the Box: US Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies,” National Employment Law Project, Jan 2018.
- Fair Chance/Ban the Box Toolkit, National Employment Law Project, March 2015.
- “The Benefits of Ban the Box: A Case Study of Durham, NC,” Southern Coalition for Social Justice
- Ban the Box Community Initiative Guide, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Today, 1 in 3 jobs in North Carolina requires some type of occupational licensing or certification. Members of the NC Second Chance Alliance seek to dismantle unnecessary barriers to occupational licensing and certification by narrowing the circumstances in which a criminal conviction is considered in licensing and certification decisions. We also seek to ensure that when a conviction is considered, the licensing entity conducts an individualized and fair review of the applicant’s criminal record that focuses on his or her current capacity to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of the job. Collaborating with community colleges, the NC Department of Commerce, the NC Department of Public Safety, and local reentry councils, members of the Alliance are working to inform men and women with criminal records of existing barriers as well as responsive legal reliefs. Our primary policy goals are to bolster the protections of Session Law 2013-24 Use of Criminal History by Licensing Boards which requires independent licensing boards to consider certain factors before exercising their discretion to deny applicants based on certain criminal records; extend the provisions of S.L. 2013-24 beyond independent occupational licensing boards to state licensing agencies; and refine especially broad and ambiguous criminal record disqualifications, like “crimes of moral turpitude.”
- Members of the NC Second Chance Alliance, including the NC Justice Center and Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, are collaborating with the Locke Foundation to increase awareness among policymakers of unnecessary barriers to licensing and certification. Please see the Locke Foundation’s editorial here: “It is Too Hard to Fly Right”.
Advocacy Tools and Resources
- “Fair Chance Licensing Reform Takes Hold in the States: 2018,” National Employment Law Project.
- “Unlicensed and Untapped: Removing Barriers to Occupational Licensing,” National Employment Law Project, April 2016.
- “How Occupational Licensing Matters for Wages and Careers,” The Hamilton Project, March 2018.
- “It is Too Hard to Fly Right”, Editorial, Carolina Journal, Dec. 2017
- “How Occupational Licensing Inhibits Economic Opportunity,” the Foundation for Government Accountability, October 2017.
In 2012, members of the Second Chance Alliance helped the NC Department of Public Safety establish a pilot network of local reentry councils. Local Reentry Councils provide direct support and case management services such as assistance with housing, job placement, transportation and referrals for mental health and substance abuse services for those leaving prison. In 2017, the NC General Assembly established the NC State Reentry Council Collaborative to increase the effectiveness of local reentry councils and examine the needs of people being released from prison and ways to help them successfully reintegrate into their communities. A dozen members of the NC Second Chance Alliance served on the Reentry Council and working groups. Alliance member Forward Justice staffed the council alongside the NC Department of Public Safety.
In December 2018, the NC State Reentry Council Collaborative finalized recommendations for legislative reforms to improve reentry outcomes for people exiting state prisons and community supervision. These reforms were developed with significant input from Alliance members and other impacted people. The proposed reforms are not transformational, but they are meaningful, significant, and urgent. We support each of the proposed reforms, summarized below:
- Protect people from being charged for removal of mugshot information.
- Amend expunction eligibility and procedures to automatically expunge convictions that will be treated as juvenile offenses under the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act beginning Dec. 1, 2019.
- Expand expunction and certificate of relief eligibility to allow for greater and more immediate access to relief for people exiting NCDPS.
- Appropriate additional funding to Local Reentry Councils to fund housing support specialist and peer support counselor positions, rental assistance programs, and transportation assistance programs.
- Study community-based sentencing alternatives for primary caretakers of dependent children who have been convicted of non-violent crimes.
- Amend Section 24.1 of Chapter 20 of the North Carolina General Statutes to (i) require a pre-deprivation hearing to determine if a defendant is able to pay before suspending the person’s driver’s license for failure to pay, and (ii) provide for automatic restoration of a driver’s license after a 12-month suspension for failure to pay.
- Establish an automated process for resolving minor pending charges and unpaid fines and fees for persons serving more than 6 months active time.
- Require licensing boards and agencies to remove subjective terms such as “good moral character” and “moral turpitude” from occupational licensing and certification criteria.
- Establish fee waivers for driver’s licenses, duplicate driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, special identification cards, and birth certificates for individuals within 6 months of release from NCDPS custody.
- Press Release: State Reentry Council Holds First Meeting on October 11, 2017, Chaired by DPS Secretary Erik Hooks
- In the first phase of the State Reentry Council, the following working groups are being prioritized: Employment, Transportation, Mental Health/Substance Abuse/Medical, Advocacy/Communications, and Faith/Community-based Organizations. The efforts of the State Reentry Council are being facilitated by SCA member Forward Justice.
- During the full council meeting on February 12, 2019, council and working group members participated in a Groundwater Training conducted by the Racial Equity Institute. Attendance among state agencies was strong, especially for top prison officials.
Advocacy Tools and Resources
Since the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act in 2011, more than $500 million has been saved in North Carolina by reducing the number of people returning to prison and closing prisons. A significant portion of these savings should be reinvested in community-based reentry services and local reentry councils.
- Press Release (Dec. 2017): DPS to Establish Five New Reentry Councils
- Gov. Cooper’s Budget: A Step in a Positive Direction (March 2017)
Advocacy Tools and Resources
- NC Final 2017-19 Biennium Budget, NCDPS Summary
- North Carolina Reaping the Benefits of Justice Reinvestment Act of 2011, Council of State Governments (November 2014)
- Justice Reinvestment Initiative State Data Tracker, Urban Institute
- Local Justice Reinvestment: Strategies, Outcomes, and Keys to Success, Urban Institute
- Justice Reinvestment Act, NC Implementation Evaluations
In North Carolina, an expungement is the destruction of a criminal record by court order. The expungement of a criminal record restores the individual, in the view of state law, to the status he or she occupied before the criminal record existed. Criminal records eligible for expunction in North Carolina are generally limited to the following three categories:
- A first-time conviction of a nonviolent offense
- A first-time conviction of certain offenses committed before age 18/22
- A charge that was dismissed or disposed “not guilty”
Alliance members support expanding eligibility to multiple nonviolent convictions after an appropriate period of good behavior. We also support providing automatic expunction of a criminal record or an alternative “clean slate relief” for most criminal records.
- On December 1, 2017, Session Law 2017-195 went into effect. Proposed and supported by members of the Second Chance Alliance, the new law (a) reduces the wait time for expunction of a first-time nonviolent conviction from 15 years to 5 years for a nonviolent misdemeanor and 10 years for a nonviolent felony, and (b) provides for expunction of all charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty” (as long as the person has not been convicted of a felony).
- Cooper Signs Senate Bill to Help Some North Carolinians Expunge Criminal Records, NC Policy Watch, July 28, 2017
- Chief Justice Mark Martin has convened a Working Group on Expungements to recommend legislation expanding eligibility for expunction relief, particularly for people convicted when they were 16- or 17-years old. The working group is chaired by Rep. McGrady and Sen. Barringer.
Advocacy Tools and Resources
During every long session of the NC General Assembly, members of the NC Second Chance Alliance visit the NC Legislative Building for Second Chance Lobby Day. The videos below are from our press conference during the inaugural Second Chance Lobby Day in 2011.
Join our movement to restore opportunities for prosperity to people exiting the criminal justice system.