Editorial for 27 November: Second chances can offer hope

Young people make mistakes and sometimes they are illegal.

But what of the young person who is truly repentant and has
taken that mistake as a life lesson never to be repeated?

Do we make him serve his time and eventually leave Her
Majesty’s prison system with a record hovering over his or her head?

Or do we give them a chance to do better?

Under a proposal from Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour, we
adopt a position of passion and offer up a second chance.

That’s what Mr. Seymour is seeking in a private members
motion he made in the Legislative Assembly on Friday.

The legislation would be fashioned after a similar proposal
introduced in the United States in 2009 by US Congressman Charlie Rangel – the
Second Chance for Offender’s Act.

It permits the clearing of records for individuals convicted
of a first, non-violent offence as long as they fulfil all requirements of the
sentence set by court, remain free from the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs
for a minimum of one year, obtain a high school diploma or equivalent and
compete at least one year of community service.

The legislation would not, Mr. Seymour said, be an option
for the young offender to re-offend.

We think it’s a good idea; if these young offenders are
truly remorseful and serious about turning their lives around and becoming
productive members of society.

The measure in the US has been successful with states saving
thousands of dollars in incarceration costs and turning out productive,
tax-paying citizens.

Of course, any changes to our rehabilitation laws will have
to be balanced between ensuring law and order in the community and providing
offenders with a real opportunity to get back into society, as iterated by
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson last week.

It is a doable idea and should be put in place to ensure
that those who do run afoul of the law, but want to better themselves, are
offered a chance to clean up and get right.


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