Both California’s Proposition 47 and Texas “Ban the Box” bills are policies that address the need for second chances and real justice for all. A second chance and real justice is what our country is crying out for. From President Barack Obama at the El Reno federal prison July 16th, and throughout the country we are a country waking up to the recognition of the injustice of killing young black men and women by police officials and mass incarceration. The racial injustice of over 50% of black men and 36% of hispanic represented in prison is clear. Prison can ruin the life of anyone, and for the young offenders, it is even more heartbreaking. A greater cost to humanity is the lost potential of the young offender who makes the wrong decision and pays for it with a lifelong sentence that shows up on applications for jobs and housing. “Ruining Lives with Justice” is the title of the New York Times OP Ed by Doug Deason(July 30, 2015) that describes his second chance and his fight for justice for others with the new bill in Texas that offers “ban the box” or not having offenders required to enter a criminal record on applications to jobs.
Doug Deason at age 17 “did something stupid” and could have paid for it all of his life because of a felony burglary charge . He was given the key to the next door neighbor’s house by their son, while the family was out of town. He threw a party; damage was done and Deason was charged with felony burglary. He was able to fight the charge and have his sentence reduced to a misdemeanor. He doesn’t refer to the racial factor of the incidence of black and latino population in prison, or to his white status as a 17 year old offender. But even so, his experience led him to form the Deason Foundation to provide the benefit to those “not so lucky.” He was given six month’s probation and clean slate thereafter that that allowed college and work and success in business and a fulfilling life.
“For too many, the criminal justice system can lead to even greater injustices,” he states, and he has committed himself since to fight to provide the basis for a second chance. Deason is a successful investor in real estate, technology, entertainment and energy. He formed the Deason Foundation for the purpose of addressing the injustice of the criminal record check box on the bottom of applications. Deason is aware of the value of the family and community that supported him and his decisions, and wants to extend to those less fortunate the means to regain their footing in life. He has used that success to work with the Texas State Legislature and the governor’s office to pass a bi-partisan “second chances bill.”
The importance of being able to mark “no” on a job, loan or housing application in response to having ever committed a crime, is the pathway for those who have to find a means to take care of themselves rather than being excluded. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that grants that in June and it will take effect in September in this “ban the box” reform.
CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 47
In California, Prop 47 was voted into action in December 2014; that bill provides for those offenders who are compelled to mark “yes” to a felony on their record to have their sentences/charges/past criminal record to be reduced to a misdemeanor under specific conditions. First that it is a non-violent crime. Eligibility for the benefit of Prop 47 is further defined as possession of drugs for personal use, theft, receipt of stolen property, forgery or check fraud for less than $950. The benefits of Prop 47 extend to a pending or future charges under these conditions as well. People serving in prison, on probation or parole may have their sentences reduced if their offenses fall into the restrictions of Prop 47.
What this allows is for people who make mistakes to find the means to get back into their lives, find work, get housing and engage in their lives, their families and their communities. The recidivism of offenders is a consequence often of those who come out of prison having lost their connections to family and community and blocked by their past to gaining a foothold in a job, or housing for a future for themselves .
Those who get the benefit of California’s Prop 47, must apply within the three years of its current term, that is until December 2017. There is concern about finding the candidates who would benefit from this bill, and having them apply for the reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor sentence within the three year time span granted.
For information and to take action in regards to Prop 47, contact the East Bay Community Law Center at 510 548-4040.
Our country is facing the consequences of being an over-criminalized country, Doug Deason states in his article. There has been an “explosion in federal prison population from 25,000 to 208,000 in thirty five years.” For many, “the criminal justice system can lead to even greater injustice.” This is the view of Deason, who will be addressing criminal justice reform at the Freedom Partners membership meeting, backed by Charles and David Koch.
A second chance and real justice for all in California and Texas is becoming policy, while other states observe the effects of the actions taken. For all states, for the country-real justice for all is the only and best future we can provide for ourselves, as well as those potentially left behind in prisons where their contributions to their families and communities cannot be made.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT PROP 47, PLEASE CONTACT:
Ella Baker Center, 1970 Broadway, Oakland:
East Bay Community Law Center at 510 548-4040
New York Times OP-Ed July 30, 2015 Doug Deason