In recent weeks, the N.C. House and Senate passed Senate Bill 562 (The Second Chance Act) with unanimous support. Now, Governor Cooper has added his signature to this important Chamber-backed bill, removing obstacles that have prevented some North Carolinians from entering the workforce and securing a significant legislative priority for the business community in 2020.
With passage of the Second Chance Act, individuals accused of crimes in North Carolina whose charges are dismissed or who are found to be not guilty of a crime will now have their records automatically expunged. The bill will also enable the expungement of some juvenile convictions as well as many nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies, particularly for citizens whose crimes occurred long in the past and who have maintained a clean criminal record since their convictions.
Often, people with criminal records – even those who have been wrongfully accused or whose nonviolent offenses occurred far in the past – can find it nearly impossible to qualify for jobs in which they might otherwise make valuable contributions. Recognizing that The Second Chance Act offered a positive, compassionate approach for addressing North Carolina’s workforce needs, the NC Chamber put our support behind the bill soon after its introduction in 2019.
“People who have been wrongfully accused of crimes or who committed nonviolent crimes in their past and have long since paid their debt to society deserve a second chance,” said Phil Strach, Chair of the NC Chamber’s Workplace Committee. “This bill gives these North Carolinians that second chance while at the same securing a positive step forward for workforce development in our state.”
Our efforts to support the Second Chance Act build upon the Chamber’s earlier support for the “Raise the Age” legislation passed in 2017, which brought North Carolina into alignment with every other state and helped reduce juvenile recidivism by ensuring that all youthful offenders under the age of 18 are processed through the juvenile court system. With the passage of Senate Bill 562, the NC Chamber applauds Governor Cooper and all members of the General Assembly for taking yet another compassionate step forward to address our state’s workforce needs.
To further reduce recidivism and strengthen our state’s talent pipeline, the NC Chamber is also supporting House Bill 463 (Education in Prisons), a bill which would fund community college courses and job skills training for inmates in North Carolina prisons. After passing the General Assembly with unanimous support, Governor Cooper signed the bill into law on June 30. At the NC Chamber, we believe our state is more competitive when all our citizens have the chance to succeed. By empowering our state’s people with broader pathways to education and employment, we will address talent supply challenges while giving opportunity and hope to every North Carolinian.