Lawmakers want to restrict access of criminal backgrounds

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News12 at First at Five, Jan. 13, 2014

Augusta, Ga (WRDW)-----Some say a potential bill in Georgia could be infringing on your first amendment rights. Two Georgia lawmakers released a report recommending stricter access to a person's criminal background.

We talked with Senator Jesse Stone who says this is much needed for those with criminal backgrounds.

Mugshots and a person's criminal background history are available to the public because of the First Amendment.
Now a state Senate Committee is recommending that certain convictions won't be released to the public after a period of good behavior following the offense.

"Once they've paid their debt to society, you should be given a second change," Augusta Resident Pat Gathers.

Gathers says restricting access will help those with minor offenses gain employment.

"People with charges against them even though they have did their time, it's hurting them. Once they've paid their debt to society, they should be able to get a job or apartment," she said.

"The Supreme Court has said that secrecy in government is a tool of old war tyranny," said Georgia Press Association Attorney David Hudson.

Hudson says the lawmakers have good intentions of trying to help those with checkered pasts. However, he says if passed, it would infringe on the rights of potential employers and landlords to know the type of people they are dealing with.

"The public needs to know who is arrested. We don't have secret arrests here in America," said Hudson.

Local Senators Hardie Davis of Augusta, and Jesse Stone of Waynesboro are on the committee making the recommendation.

"The issue for the state. The state has a huge interest in helping offenders who qualify for record restriction to remove the stigma that prevents them from getting productive employment," said Senator Jesse Stone.

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