Testimony: HB 6431 – An Act Concerning Housing Opportunities for Justice-Impacted Persons

I’m here today to support with strong qualifications HB6431. I am Cindy Prizio, the Executive Director of One Standard of Justice, a statewide civil rights advocacy organization. OSJ works with men and women arrested or convicted of sexual offenses and their families — I am also a member of a justice impacted family on both sides of the sexual offense issue — this group in particular has many walls and barriers including housing to living a meaningful life.

Our testimony includes all people not just the people on the registry. OSJ lauds your work on Bill 6431 – Housing protections for the justice impacted. While OSJ supports the idea of this bill we believe it does not go far enough – nor will it provide the relief to many who have returned or will return to their communities as law abiding citizens and their families in a timely way. We should be doing everything in our power to assist rather than hinder our citizens who have already paid their debt to society.

We also believe the text starting on line 74 thru 79 is vague and should be eliminated:

… housing provider may only consider a criminal conviction of any person for the commission of a felony, if repeated, would adversely affect the health, safety or welfare of other tenants, including, but not limited to, a crime of physical violence to persons or property.

Who is going to define what crime fits that description?  Further using an offense classification often does not reflect the truth.

Time offense free in the community should be enough and the look back must be much shorter than the 10 years cited or why not immediate for individuals with low risk to reoffend?

While individual assessments would be nice, we must be certain not to bring other discriminating factors into the evaluation.  As a 20-something in the ‘70s I was discriminated against when apartment hunting for not being married.

I am disheartened but not surprised by some of the written testimonies I’ve read citing who wants to live next to a “sex offender”?
Dr. R. Karl Hanson, an internationally renowned researcher and co-creator of the most widely used risk assessment tool, STATIC99R, shared in a January 5 webinar sponsored by OSJ that: sexual recidivism is low; it is just unlikely that most people will sexually reoffend; and, the longer offense free in the community the less likely to reoffend. These numbers are already so low. A massive 20-year longitudinal study by the State of New York (10 years before the state created its registry and 10 years after) found that 95% of sexual crime arrests were of people who had never been arrested before.

The Karl Hanson webinar can he found on CTN and OneStandardOfJustice.org. We have included the link here:

https://OneStandardOfJustice.org/dr-r-karl-hanson-sexual-offense-recidivism-risk-not-what-you-think/

By continuing to restrict or exclude people by their offense does not support good policy nor support creating and sustaining safer healthier communities. We believe use of exclusions or carve outs in policy reform that have been created and fueled by emotions and fear should be eliminated.

I encourage this committee to use evidence-based data – golden nugget research to create laws and policies on housing – please continue the vital work by amending 6431.

Finally when I went to look up testimony on HB 6431, the caption next to every testimony is housing protections for felons. The bill however reads justice impacted.  No criticism, however, it behooves our legislators, agencies and advocates to use person first language. The use of labels encourages others to use them. We know labels dehumanize people and entire sub-groups.  It starts with me… and you.

Thank you.

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