Nonviolent Offenders Get Second Chance to Prove Themselves

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A recent study of the records of 14,000 people who used a 2003 law to have their criminal records sealed offered several surprises to criminal justice experts. The law allows certain offenders to ask a court to order law enforcement agencies to keep criminal offenses under wraps.

Approximately 10% of the 14,000 offenders committed other crimes since 2003. The program shows enormous success. The nonviolent offenders were virtually allowed back into the workforce enabling the offenders to get a second chance.

"In the age of the Internet, where accusations cling on people the same way the scarlet letter did 300 years ago, these non disclosures are really, really significant," said Keith Hampton, Austin defense attorney and chair of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association's legislative committee.

Not everyone is pleased, however. Told of the 10 percent rate of repeat offenders, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said, "Wow, that's a pretty high level of recidivism."



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