Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, which would revise procedures and eligibility for the expungement of criminal records, was sent to the Governor.
“With an increased focus on criminal justice reform, both at the state level and nationally, we cannot forget about those who have already gone through the system,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “To create a justice system truly based on rehabilitation, we must ensure those convicted have a fair shot at life after serving their time. Many formerly incarcerated Americans spend the rest of their life fighting the stigma around their conviction, hindering their ability to find a place to live or get a job. Expanding the eligibility for expungement will allow more people to remove that stigma and break down the barriers preventing them from reaching their full potential.”
“Expanding the expungement program is an important part of our ongoing effort to bring meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system,” said Senator Sweeney, (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland), who has advocated for a series of other reforms. “If we are to truly give former offenders a fair opportunity to succeed, they need to have the ability for a clean slate. Removing the stigma of past convictions will allow them to get jobs so they can support themselves and their families as productive members of society. Everyone deserves a second chance, this is a way of actually giving people that opportunity.”
“The collateral consequences that come with a criminal conviction have been devastating communities of color, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and fracturing families for much too long. Whenever there is a conversation about the racial disparities among our state’s incarceration rates, we cannot forget that those convictions follow people for the rest of their lives,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Expungement can begin to address the inequalities that exist in our criminal justice system. There is more work that needs to be done, but this legislation is a significant step in the right direction.”
The bill, S-4154, was released from the Senate by a vote of 22-17.