This issue has again been placed in a negative light by a certain individual who doesn't have all the facts before she makes hysterical accusations and statements that the bill, “The Restoration of Rights and Expungement of Criminal Records Act of 2010,” will caused widespread civic damage to our island community.
She listed seven questions that need to be asked, and since she doesn't provide the answers, which are right in the bill itself or provided by the use of common sense, I will help her see the logic of providing a chance for those who deserve and must petition the CNMI court system for any chance to have their rights restored or records expunged.
The logic of the bill is simple. A survey of nearly all the U.S. states, including the state of Vermont, and U.S. possessions show that each governing entity provides some type of expungement and restoration of rights relief for court-determined and deserving citizens who have committed misdemeanors and, in certain cases, felonies. The impetus of the bill is simple. Several CNMI residents who have committed minor indiscretions should have the opportunity to have their records expunged. It is not an easy process, but everyone deserves a chance to have a bad mark removed from their record, especially if it affects their chances of securing employment, joining the military, etc. I am asking the critics of this bill to read the Bible and the part where it says, “Let he or she who has never committed any wrong cast the first stone.” If the good Lord can be forgiving, why can't we human beings act in the same manner? Of course, they are those who do think they are walking saints and so much better than the rest of us.
No one has suggested that maintaining criminal records is a problem, and the vast majority of records will always be kept. Even if some misdemeanor records are expunged, the person still has to always live with the fact that he/she did commit a crime and that fact will always remain and does have to be reported when applying for certain positions.
There is no one in the past who will be whitewashed by this bill. To say something this ludicrous is to say that all the judges, attorneys general, and other law enforcement agencies are all in a conspiracy to whitewash “friends of the governor.”
Expungement does not create an easy atmosphere for more crime. Does anyone in their right mind think that a person considers expungement, probation, parole, fines and imprisonment when they commit a crime? Crimes are committed out of passion, desperation, bad judgment, violent upbringings, etc. Expungement only creates a compassionate opportunity for some individuals to clean their slate for a fresh beginning. Research shows that if you don't allow a person a chance to better themselves and keep them legally shackled forever, they become desperate and commit more crimes to survive. It is sad that we live in a community that has some people who want “convicted people,” no matter what their offense, to always live beneath their self-glorified feet.
The standards of living are not being lowered by the expungement bill. It is actually raising them in a civilized society. Finally, as law-abiding parents and teachers, etc., we do try our best to teach our children and students to do well and obey the rules. But show me one parent or teacher who has not granted a young person another chance to do better after breaking a rule. I am thankful that I was raised by law-abiding but compassionate parents and teachers, and I also have a big heart and sympathy for those who are being raised in a self-righteous and a biased better-than-thou environment. (Stanley T. McGinnis Torres)
Stanley T. McGinnis Torres is a member of the House of Representatives of the 17th Legislature.