Thank you to everyone who showed up to support HB 528, whether you came to the subcommittee hearing, called or e-mailed committee members in support of the bill, or sent your good wishes.
Yesterday morning, a sub-committee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee heard public comment on HB 528, a bill that would allow expungement of certain misdemeanor and felony convictions in Georgia. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it out of the sub-committee, which means it will not move forward this legislative session. However, legislators at the hearing noted the resounding public support and momentum around expungement reform, and indicated interest in further exploring this issue after the end of the session.
We were encouraged by the strong presence of people who have a criminal record and advocates at the hearing, many of whom spoke about the barriers of a criminal record and the need for reform. Denise Woodall, a Sociology PhD candidate, even traveled from 2 hours away to share her stories about working with individuals who struggle to access employment, housing, and educational opportunities due to their criminal record.
Doug Ammar, the Executive Director of Georgia Justice Project, testified about the gap in Georgia’s law for rehabilitated individuals who are facing a lifetime of barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities due to decades-old convictions. He also discussed Georgia Justice Project’s work with Georgia employers, many of whom support redemption and record clearing. Natasha Alladina from Georgia Justice Project shared research demonstrating the public safety and economic benefits of expungement of convictions. She stressed that expungement of convictions is already available in 38 other states, including our Southeastern neighbors Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
Reverend Monica Mainwaring from Church of the Common Ground spoke to the moral imperative of this legislation, which would provide relief for her homeless parishioners who struggle to move forward with their lives due to their records. Representatives from the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Georgia Shift, and National Incarceration Association further emphasized the need for this legislation.
Following the compelling public comments, legislators noted the need to continue the conversation around expungement reform as we look toward the 2020 session. While we are disappointed, we are not giving up; we know that individuals who are struggling with their record will move forward this fight for dignity and opportunity, and we will be calling on you to show up for second chances and share your stories.