Coney Island

Jeffries introduces bipartisan bill to help young drug offenders

Renew Act would expunge convictions of those under 25

May 30, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat, is reaching across the aisle to work with Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy on criminal justice reform legislation. Photo courtesy of Jeffries’ office

The fierce political partisanship in Washington, D.C. is being tossed aside, at least temporarily, by a Brooklyn Democrat and a South Carolina Republican, who have joined forces to try to pass legislation in the House of Representatives to help young, non-violent drug offenders get their lives back on track.

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Canarsie-Coney Island-Sheepshead Bay) is working with U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) for passage of a bill they introduced called the “Renew Act,” a measure aimed at allowing more low-level, non-violent drug offenders to wipe the slate clean.

The Renew Act seeks to extend the provisions of a law former President Ronald Reagan signed in 1984 that allows a young person convicted of a misdemeanor drug possession charge to expunge the conviction if he or she is a first-time offender, if the crime was committed when the offender was under the age of 21 and if the offender has completed probation.

By expunging a conviction, the court is effectively erasing the conviction.

Jeffries and Gowdy, who are both members of the House Judiciary Committee, want to change the Reagan-era law to raise the eligibility age to 25.

Under their plan, a drug offender who committed the crime when they were under the age of 25 and who meets the other criteria would also be eligible to have the conviction expunged.

The bill would allow judges to use their discretion in sentencing offenders to probation, according to Jeffries.

“This is a common-sense measure that will improve the lives of millions of people across New York City and this great nation. It serves as a ripple of hope that will allow hardworking people to get back to work and provide for their families. Rep. Gowdy should be applauded for his leadership in this regard,” Jeffries said in a statement reflecting the bipartisan nature of the effort.

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“Federal convictions for non-violent, low-level drug offenders often prevent young individuals from finding work, housing and education, posing additional challenges as they work to transition back into society,” Gowdy said in a statement.

The Renew Act “promotes opportunities for young former offenders and reduces the risk of recidivism,” Gowdy stated.

Gowdy praised Jeffries for his work in criminal justice reform. “I want to thank Rep. Jeffries for his long-standing commitment to promoting a fair and equal justice system and for his bipartisan effort on this bill,” he stated.

The bill has been endorsed by both right-leaning and left-leaning organizations, including Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservative Union, American Legislative Exchange Council, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Justice Action Network, Prison Fellowship and Right on Crime.


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