SB1019 – An Act Concerning The Board Of Pardons And Paroles, Erasure Of Criminal Records For Certain Misdemeanor And Felony Offenses, Prohibiting Discrimination Based On Erased Criminal History Record Information And Concerning The Recommendations Of The Connecticut Sentencing Commission With Respect To Misdemeanor Sentences

Link below is the bill for your review.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2021&bill_num=1019

 

Testimony Opposing Exclusions in Raised Senate Bill 1019

Anonymous

My internet crime happened in 2012 and resulted in a Class D felony conviction. It was a one-time, isolated incident that I never meant to commit but must live with the consequences my entire life. I learned a very difficult lesson that day. I accept my accountability, wish I had used better judgement, and should have been more aware of my surroundings.

My entire life, I have always taken pride in doing what is best for others and myself, never posing harm to anyone, and bringing joy to those around me. I graduated from college with a 4 year degree, was very active, played sports, socialized with family and friends, and always worked hard in my career. My parents always taught me to follow the rules, to be the best version of myself possible, to self-improve, and to see the beauty / positiveness in everything.

All that changed in 2012. I had gone through a very difficult time before my crime, losing my father and grandparents. I had used a file sharing network since college, for music, movies, and TV shows. Unfortunately, I did not educate myself enough to understand these file sharing programs, also had unprotected, illegal material, present on the program either disguised or clearly present, in which I carelessly uploaded a few files unintentionally. I was negligent, but I paid the price and took responsibility for my actions.

During my pre-trial period of 1.5 years, I lived in fear, not knowing my future. I had an excellent pre-sentencing investigative report that showed I was never in trouble in my life. I had lost everything prior to being incarcerated – my career, my fiancé (who could not bear my label on the registry due to her work), my car, my 401K, and all my finances which were spent on legal fees and bail. I served my time – one full year in jail and completed my program in prison with success.

I had had a whole year to reflect on everything while being away from my loved ones. Upon release, I faced my greatest challenge. I again had the full, loving support of my friends and family which guided me through my struggles. I moved back into my mother’s home, whom has been there every step of the way for me. My family and friends know my true character. They understand I made a huge mistake that day in 2012.

It has been a struggle and unbelievably challenging since my release. In my initial search, I have applied for several hundred jobs, had 40-50 interviews, 95% of which resulted in a job offer, only to be turned down because of my Felony D conviction and being a “sex offender.” However, I was persistent and never gave up, eventually landing a temporary job outside my industry. Then, I met a woman who looked past my record and loved me for who I am, how I treated her.

But I would often be reminded of my “scarlet letter” and shunned by people. I noticed a few friends no longer wanted to associate because of my label. Although they knew my true character, they felt embarrassed, especially when they started to have children. We live in a very judgmental society unfortunately.

I would isolate myself, fearing rejection from others, and would not let anyone become close to me. I could no longer be myself and fully live my life, be happy, be comfortable around others, and put myself out there socially. The social distancing everyone is experiencing now with Covid has been my experience since my release in July 2015.

I lost my first job after prison due to the business closing, finding myself anew in the same struggle. It is difficult for someone with a record to land a meaningful job, and I would often face discrimination due to my record, even though I was well qualified for the role, and it would not have any correlation with my crime. I became even more depressed and anxious. I felt suicidal and fearful that this life was going to continue to beat me down and not allow me to recover and have that true second chance.

One day my whole life and perspective changed. I learned I was to be a father. My partner and I have a child together, who is the light of our lives. My child gave me a new and stronger reason to fight not just for me, but for them and to be the best father/role model I can, guide them, protect them. We are planning to develop and grow our family.

Our child is now three, but I am once again living in fear of how I can continue being active in their life with school, activities while being labeled as a “sex offender.” My partner is my approved supervisor but cannot always be there. I often withdraw from my child’s visits to new pre-school appointments, kids’ birthdays, and activities because of town ordinances and fear of backlash from my label with other parents.

My family has already suffered from labeling and being singled out. They have been excluded from activities, such as my partner’s Facebook groups, mom gatherings, playground play dates with kids, and even my partner’s friends who now have kids. It is not right. They should not pay the price for my crime committed almost 9 years ago.

I served my time in prison, completed my program early with success, in full compliance with probations and the state registry, volunteer at an animal shelter for the past five years, and maintained a full-time job twice in my career, once of which was during the pandemic. In addition, I obtained a certificate of employability from the Board of Pardons, received modification from the courts that my label would not affect me being with my child, and we own our own home.

However, I am limited in being active in my child’s life due to my label and want to be the best father I can. I want to achieve my higher goals and potential in life, and not settle or feel trapped due to my record. I am very proud how far I have come with many obstacles and rejections in the way.

I do not want to settle for less in life. I should have the right to compete, achieve like everyone else, and not be turned away because of my record. I cannot obtain a better paying position or move into management for work because of my conviction. I know that if this were truly behind me, I could obtain these goals and provide a better quality of life and security for my family. My family and I should not have to struggle. I am still fighting and deserve a second chance in life.

Respectfully, I ask you this: why don’t I deserve that chance by being included in the Clean Slate Bill like others who have committed C and D felonies?

 

Sharon Dorne

My name is Sharon Dorne and I live in Southbury Ct. I am a sexual assault “survivor” who believes in the humanity of all people regardless of their offenses or convictions. I am a member of One Standard of Justice, a volunteer organization in our state committed to the civil rights of those accused of or convicted of sexual offenses in Connecticut.

I speak to you today regarding the bills discriminatory exclusion of those convicted of family violence, non-violent sexual assault and sexually violent assault. I do not support that language and can only support the bill if it is removed.

As a survivor of a violent crime you might expect that I would not be in support of this bill at all. Instead, I believe that everyone with convictions of the misdemeanors and felonies included in this bill, without exception, deserve a path toward automatic erasure and a clean slate. I cannot look through only one lens in my role as a human being. People with sex offenses should not be singled out as unworthy of inclusion on this bill. Though well intended, those who crafted this bill chose through misinformation and fear, to carve out of the bill, C and D class felonies that are sexual in nature. This population of men and women in Connecticut deserve the same path to erasure of their criminal records as everyone else who would be eligible through this bill.

One Standard of Justice has been promoting and providing webinars to share the most up to date information that address evidence based reform, recidivism rates, restorative justice practices and science. If this committee continues to listen to outdated, misleading information and continues to bury their heads in the sand regarding the evidence based research available, then we will continue to have a flawed system based on fear, that is only punitive in nature and wastes time and resources. We punish those who commit offenses and we all understand what it means to “do your time” and “pay your debt” to society, but when all people with sex offenses are deemed “irreparable” and “unredeemable” then we are also guilty. Guilty of losing opportunities for honest discussion and true reform.

There is evidence that most people convicted of a sexual offense remain offense-free in their communities and over time become less likely to reoffend sexually than an individual who has never committed a sexual offense. We must stop looking at them as lifelong threats to society. Think what could be done with our states resources if we could shed the outdated, misinformed policies that do not benefit a Safer CT, and keep this population from being treated with dignity, the same dignity we all want and need.

We cannot throw people away. Although it may be flawed, we have a system in place that deals with sex offenses. That system arrests, convicts, incarcerates, imposes conditions of release, provides therapy, and monitors through parole and probation. When do we start to provide a system that then considers that they have “paid their debts” and “done their time?” We cannot play God.

I am fortunate to be a survivor. I am fortunate that I am a member of One Standard of Justice and have met and spoken to men on the sex offenses registry who I am privileged to speak for today.

Thank you for your time.

 

Jorge Guzman

My name is Jorge Guzman. I was raised in the Salvation Army as a minister’s kid and moved all over the United States. I was always open to giving a helping hand to anyone. Like the slogan says, “Heart to God, Hand to man.” When I was 16 years old, Hurricane Georges hit Puerto Rico. My dad and I went out in the middle of the hurricane to rescue a neighbor. In those days following my family and I started cooking three meals a day for over 2000 people affected by the hurricane. We later moved to Connecticut and 9/11 happened. My dad and I were volunteering 12 midnight to 12 noon shifts helping the men and women who were assigned to the clearing and clean up at Ground Zero. I grew up always happy to help my fellow man and never got in any trouble.

Today, I am on the public sex offense registry here in Connecticut. I made some mistakes and have accepted my responsibility for them. I have been offense free for 9 years. With the support of family and friends I was able to find housing and I’ve had a stable job as a manager, for 8 years. My boss treats me like family.

My journey on probation wasn’t always easy with all its restrictions, and I did receive violations and spent some time in jail. Without hesitation my boss took me back. The violations weren’t for anything serious, just simple things those not on probation would take for granted in their everyday lives. For example I was playing Pokémon Go outdoors with a group of adults and because I was playing on my phone it violated my probation. My marriage ended because my ex-wife couldn’t take the pressure of probation and her son’s biological father used my offense as a weapon against us. Recently, I was fortunate to receive early termination of my probation but not in time to save my marriage.

I have not reoffended in the 9 years I have been back in the community and I have only one year left on the registry. I have a non-violent class C felony, that unfortunately this bill excludes because it was sexual offense. Why shouldn’t I be afforded the liberties offered by this bill? Why shouldn’t I have the same opportunity for automatic erasure of my criminal record as everyone else with a non-violent C felony? I would like to live my life untethered from my past mistakes. I have paid my debt to society. When will enough be enough?

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