Congressman Steve Cohen has reintroduced a bill that would help non-violent ex-offenders expunge their records.
The Fresh Start Act would focus on felons with federal charges who have served their sentence and proven they've become law-abiding, productive members of society. The act would not include violent offenders, sex offenders, and those who have committed property or financial crimes worth more than $25,000.
“Today, even if an ex-offender was non-violent, they could very well face a life sentence,” said Cohen. “That’s because the stigma of their conviction often follows them for the rest of their life. Employment, education and housing opportunities – the very things necessary to turn a life around — can all be denied because of a past conviction. We should give non-violent offenders who have turned their lives around a real chance to start over again and contribute more fully to society — and my legislation would do just that.”
If passed, qualifying ex-offenders could apply in federal court to have their convictions taken off their records, so long as they haven't committed any other state or federal offenses and have met the terms of their sentence. Those who are denied could re-apply every two years. But for any ex-offender who qualifies, expungement would be automatically granted seven years after the completion of their sentence.
The bill would also encourage states to pass their own expungement laws for state offenses. States that pass such laws would receive a five percent in increase in federal funding for local law enforcement use, and those that choose not to pass similar laws would lose five percent in federal police funds.