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State legislators could soon introduce a bill that would give first-time convicted drug offenders a second chance. The proposal moves to automatically expunge the criminal records of non-violent individuals who complete a New Jersey drug court program. 

Legislators view the bill as a continued means of support for those who have met program requirements. They note that a criminal record can make it hard for offenders to obtain employment, housing and financial aid.  New legislation could mean a fresh start for the reformed and lesson the long-term consequences for those with no prior convictions.

The proposal comes on the heels of a 2006 report indicating 32 percent of the New Jersey prison population is composed of drug offenders - well above the national average of 20 percent.  Should the bill go through, at least one assemblywoman hopes to see a reduction in those numbers. 

"Rather than invest in policies that might lead to recidivism and end up costing the state more in incarceration costs, let's invest in their recovery," she said in an Asbury Park Press article. According to reports, corrections expenditures increased 49 percent from 1995 to 2006, rising from $717 million to just over $1 billion.

If the legislation passes, it could quell the swelling number of imprisoned drug offenders and reduce costs associated with their care. No petition would be required and no fee charged for the expungement. That might come as welcome news for alleged delinquents across the state who continue to suffer the consequences of their one-time conviction.

Source: Asbury Park Press, "Bill would expunge drug records for nonviolent, first-time offenders," Mark Spivey, April 7, 2012   

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