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The "Free the Felons" Legislation

1. Weaking Drug Laws

WHAT THEY WANT TO DO:

HB 76 would reduce the penalty for possession of less than one gram of "Penalty Group 1" (heroin, cocaine, etc.) substances from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor, and reduce the penalty for posession of less than one ounce of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor.

THE PROBLEM WITH THAT:

The problem with drug users is not that they're spending too much time in jail--the problem is that they're using drugs. Weakening the penalties will just make drugs more common and encourage more people to use them--including children. We don't need to send the message that drugs are okay if it's "just a small amount." We need to tell drug users to quit using drugs.

2. Protecting Young Predators

WHAT THEY WANT TO DO:

HB 76 wants to raise treat seventeen year-olds--currently adults in the eyes of the law--like juvenile offenders, throwing them into a system designed to handle children as young as ten. 

THE PROBLEM WITH THAT:

Seventeen year-olds aren't children. A lot of these young predators have multiple felonies by the time they reach their seventeenth birthday, and there's no reason to keep trying to "help" them with a juvenile system that's clearly not working. Just ask the family ofCorriann Cervantes--she was just fifteen years old when a seventeen year-old thug raped her, tried to strangle her with a belt, gouged her eyes out, and then finally beat her to death with the lid of a toilet tank. There's no place in the juvenile system for someone like that.

3. "Get Out of Jail Free"

WHAT THEY WANT TO DO:

HB 76  wants to eliminate the tried-and-true bail bond system in favor of a lot of  hocus-pocus with names like "citation releases," "risk-based pre-trial services," and "due process detention." 

THE PROBLEM WITH THAT:

What that mumbo-jumbo adds up to is simple: "Get Out of Jail Free." Literally--they want the vast majority of people arrested to walk out of jail that same day without putting down a penny to make sure they come back. There's a place for social workers and drug counselors, but it's not making sure felons decide to show up for their trialdate instead of catching the first bus to California. That's what bail bondsmen do, and that's what they need to keep doing.

4. Helping Felons Hide Their Tracks

WHAT THEY WANT TO DO:

HB 76 wants to  "ban the box"--that is, prevent employers from automatically rejecting employment applications with a felony conviction, and prevent them from even asking about convictions until they're ready to make a job offer. Futher, HB 76 would allow convicted drug offenders to get SNAP benefits ("food stamps"), make it harder for the state to withhold an occupational license from a convicted felon, and make it easier for convicted offenders to get an order of non-disclosure ("sealing their records")--something they can currently only do if they received deferred ajudication, rather than a conviction.

THE PROBLEM WITH THAT:

The whole idea of a "criminal record" is that it's a record of what people have done--not something they can wipe clean or hide from people who have a right to know. "Occupational licenses" includes people like electricians and plumbers, who come directly into your home--the state has a vested interest in being very careful about who gets a license like that. And employers have a vested interest in hiring who they want to hire--they don't need the state telling them what questions they can ask and when they canask them. And we certainly don't taxpayer money spent so we can give food stamps to drug offenders.