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When you’ve served your time should your prison record disappear?

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When you’ve served your time should your prison record disappear? That’s a question being talked about at the State Capitol as part of the next phase of ‘Criminal Justice Reform.’ If you or someone in your family has been in prison you know how difficult the adjustment back to life outside can be.

Related: Officials say prison population beginning to flatten out

There are thousands of Connecticut residents that have spent time at one of the state’s 14 correction facilites. Most spend some time on parole following their time in prison. When this is completed, it is considered that you have paid your debt to society. But for most, the stigma of a criminal record lasts forever.

That’s very real for 38-year-old Kennard Ray of Hartford. He spent a total of 6-and-a-half years in prison on four nonviolent felony convictions. He’s been out now for about 15 years and says,  “In order just to get small jobs, you know, working in a kitchen, you’ve got to apply a hundred times and that’s not a joke. Quite literally I’ve applied to hundreds of jobs.”

As one of the latest moves in criminal justice reform, Democrats are advocating that criminal records for nonviolent crimes be expunged, in other words disappear after a certain number of years. “This proposed legislation will enable people who have been incarcerated and have long paid their time and long paid their dues, will no longer continue to be discriminated for housing and job,” said Sen. Dennis Bradley (D-Bridgeport) who serves on the Public Safety Committee.

But opponents, like fellow Public Safety Committee member Rep. J.P. Sredinsky (R-Monroe), say this could be a problem for law enforcement and potentially place police in potential danger adding, “In my full time job, I manage a 9-1-1 dispatch center and we dispatch for municipal police deparments and it’s important that we have that information for the responding officers so they know the type of situation they’re walking into.”

To that Ray retorted, “We’re not saying ‘let’s skirt over public safety’ but we’re also saying ‘when is enough, enough? When is the price paid?”    

The question of how many years of not getting in trouble after prison would be required for this is still up for discussion as this bill works its way through the legislative committee process.    

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