New Drug Law Will Remove Drug History from Public Records

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There is much uproar in Albany these days: the capital of New York State is in turmoil due to the rift within the state Senate. The issue that prompted such drastic division of opinion addresses the Rockefeller drug law reforms passed as part of the 2009-2010 budget package, which allows some drug offenders to conceal their criminal records after completing drug court. Is it just a matter of cutting costs?

Senate Republicans want to repeal this provision because they feel it may threaten the lives of many peaceful citizens. Effective June 8, 2009, drug offenders who have satisfied court requirements can seal the portion of their public records that contain their criminal history. The primary sponsors of bill S. 5684 feel the provision is "mind-boggling", "defies all common sense" and grossly neglects to protect public interest. They feel if the reform does not pass, innocent people may die as a result, so to many it is "a matter of life and death".

The biggest problem the opposition sees with the law is that it wipes the slate clean for former drug criminals, and they have carte-blanche as far as passing criminal background checks. Thus, they are free to apply for any position that requires public trust. The new bill proposes to at least inform some potential employers, including schools, daycare centers, nursing homes, etc. that the new hire has prior drug convictions. This means only a partial "fresh start" for drug criminals, preserving the compromising section of their public records for some eyes only, but not others.

Now, what do you think? Don't you feel torn? I feel it really depends on the kind of drug offense in question. Take some dumb kid who never hurt anyone else, but succumbed to peer pressure. He made a mistake dabbling with drugs, got caught, educated and reformed by a rehab program, and is ready to turn a new leaf. He has his whole life ahead of him and deserves an equal chance. Take it away and you may ruin this young promising life. Then again, a ruthless drug dealer turning young kids on to drugs during school recess, needs to be kept away from the vulnerable members of society for good. They better keep him away from my kids, that's for sure! I say, his criminal history better remain an accessible portion of his public records.

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