SB 368 nearly to the finish line

Youth Justice | 04/05/2021

Michael Spalding
Advocate

I believe Senate Bill 368 is a good step in improving our juvenile justice system, which is why I testified at the statehouse recently. I told the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee my story because I believe we all have to do our part. Will you join me and email House leaders?

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Every person I know has done something they are not proud of. Some of us got into trouble for these mistakes and some didn’t. For me, it was sometime around my fifth or sixth grade year, when I was seeking acceptance in an older group of kids who I didn’t realize did not have my best interest at heart. They taught me how to pick the locks on their cars and had told me they locked their keys out. As a gullible kid, it took me a while to figure out that this was not their cars. I just wanted them to like me.

Luckily, I was able to see past them and walk away. I made other friends. I learned I couldn’t trust everyone and didn’t need everyone to like me. While I didn’t get into trouble and my story doesn’t end with my past following me around to this day or sending me to jail, it does tell the story of change and it shows that not all kids who make mistakes are bad or even fully aware.  

Change is something I believe all kids can do with the right environment – and an adult jail is not the place for kids to learn how to act. We shouldn’t be holding children in adult jails pre-trial, which is one reason why I support SB368.

I feel passionate about giving kids a second chance because not all kids are as lucky as I was. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for friends, family and even strangers who fought to give me a second chance and let me be a child again. Making children wear their records like scarlet letters is devastating. It holds them back from jobs, education and opportunities – not to mention the social toll it takes on a kid to have a label like “delinquent” staining them for years after a mistake.

I once had a friend who got into trouble because he stole soup and bread from a grocery store. He wasn’t committing a crime because he was a bad kid, but because his family was hungry and he didn’t know what else to do. The social toll this scarlet letter took on him alone was heartbreaking. I hope this bill passes because it gives kids a second chance to fulfill their dreams by automatically expunging non-violent youth records.  

Today, I am 20 years old and my life is just beginning. I went to a great high school despite struggling academically and am now at Penn Foster for HVACR. My life was made better by support, which is something all kids need.  

I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if I had a record following me around. Kids who make mistakes deserve a second chance and to get the rehabilitation they deserve. Please send an email and ask key legislators to pass Senate Bill 368. Even if you’ve emailed before, please send another email today. SB 368 isn’t to the finish line yet and needs your support now more than ever. This new action page is directed at different lawmakers who need to hear from you.

I believe if we want to be a state that sees value in our children and works to get past their traumas before labeling them as unredeemable, we have to stand together and advocate for this bill to pass.  

 

 

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