Two Democratic Assembly members say they plan to introduce a bill that would automatically expunge the criminal records of nonviolent drug offenders who have completed New Jersey's drug court program.

The measure, to be co-sponsored by Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman would grant automatic expungement of records of a criminal conviction to certain individuals who have completed a sentence to a term of special probation, commonly referred to as the drug court program.

"This bill is about second chances. A criminal record can make it difficult to get a job, an apartment and may even impact financial aid eligibility," says Green. "The justice system thought these offenders would be better served by treatment rather than prison. This bill continues that support, by giving individuals who have gone through and completed the program the chance to start over and do right without a criminal record holding them back."

To qualify for automatic expungement, the person cannot have been convicted of any prior crime or have been adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person on more than two prior occasions; the conviction cannot be for any of the crimes that are ineligible for expungement; and the person cannot have had a previous criminal conviction expunged regardless of the lapse of time between the prior expungement and the completion of the sentence of special probation.

Watson-Coleman explains, "We're not talking about murderers and rapists; we're talking about nonviolent drug offenders who have undergone rigorous treatment. Rather than invest in policies that might lead to recidivism and end up costing the state more in incarceration costs, let's invest in their recovery."

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