A new year always brings new hope for starting over or improving something in life. Three proposed Washington bills that are making their way through the state legislature could restore certain rights to convicted felons and give those individuals a shot at reclaiming their lives after they have served their time.
Parenting Rights: House Bill 2220
Sponsored by Representative Laurie Dolan, House Bill 2220 would allow those who have a conviction on their record to be able to volunteer at their child's school after they meet certain criteria, such as obtaining a certificate of restoration of opportunity. The bill would also require schools to individually check those parents or caretakers who do not have a certificate of restoration and give them a chance to prove they are rehabilitated.
This bill would allow parents who were convicted of certain minor offenses—often long before they became parents—to not bear the stigma of not being allowed access inside their child's school. According to Representative Dolan, “Little kids need their parents as part of their education, and these parents who served their time deserve every opportunity to be that parent.”
The bill would exclude parents convicted of class A felonies, sex offenses, extortion, and other more serious offenses.
Voting Rights: Senate Bill 6228
Another proposed bill could restore voting rights to convicted felons as soon as they are released from the Department of Corrections, and those voting rights would be permanent rather than provisional. Senator Patty Kuderer, the bill's primary sponsor, said, “voting is one of the most sacred and fundamental rights we have as Americans.” She also has noted that African-Americans and Native Americans are disproportionately represented in the corrections system, and by restoring their right to vote, they can reintegrate into society more easily.
This bill has had a lot of support, but Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler said in a press release that he believes SB 6228 “is actually a step toward letting all inmates vote.” But studies have shown that restoring the right to vote actually helps reduce recidivism.
Clean Slate Act: House Bill 2793
The last bill that could help former Washington felons is House Bill 2793, also known as the “Clean Slate Act.” This bill would vacate a criminal record after the individual has met certain statutory eligibility requirements depending on the nature of their crime. Removing a criminal conviction would allow individuals to be able to answer “no” to the question of “Have you been convicted of a crime?” on job applications, housing applications, and licensing applications.
Representative Morgan Irwin, who sponsored the bill, said there are economic benefits to vacating certain records. He said that in other states that have already done this, “they are immediately seeing a decrease in recidivism among the folks who are able to vacate their records.” He explained that vacating felonies has allowed people to earn 25% to 50% more than they would with a felony still on their record.
Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
Of course, the best way to becoming a convicted felony is to hire an aggressive and knowledgable defense attorney as soon as you are charged with a crime. Steve Karimi, a former prosecutor, will examine your case and come up with a defense strategy that best serves your needs. Contact him today to learn more.