About 100 ex-offenders and advocates rallied in Annapolis on Tuesday morning to urge Maryland lawmakers to pass legislation that would help former inmates reenter society by removing barriers for employment.
Ex-offenders chanted, “Second chance, everybody deserves a second chance,” as legislators walked across Lawyer’s Mall into the statehouse.
“We want the legislature to know that this is an important issue to the people of the state,” said Todd Yeary, the political-action chair for the NAACP’s Maryland State Conference. “And it’s good public policy.”
Advocates are pushing a couple of bills that deal with expunging certain criminal records.
One bill would repeal the “unit rule.” The legislation would affect a person who is charged with several crimes stemming from one incident, or unit, who might plead guilty to one of the lesser charges while the other more serious charges are dropped. Under current law, the other charges remain on the person’s criminal record.
Proponents of the bill say that ex-offenders should not be punished for crimes they were never convicted of.
They say that ex-offenders have a difficult time finding stable jobs because of the “stain” on their criminal records.
“The concern is if I am trying to get a job and that pops up . . . it can really do damage to your prospects,” said Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s), the sponsor of the bill. “Why should you continue to pay a penalty for charges that you weren’t convicted of?”
The push for the partial-expungement bill comes a year after the General Assembly passed the Second Chance Act, a bill that shields certain nonviolent misdemeanor criminal records from public view, making it easier for ex-offenders to get a job.
To qualify, ex-offenders would have to serve their full sentence, along with any parole, stay out of trouble for three years and then apply for shielding.
In December, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that his administration will conduct a one-year review of the legal and regulatory barriers that ex-offenders face as they seek employment.