October 6, 2012 9:51:44 PM
Expungement laws need to be eased
One of the saddest days of my life was when my son was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. I was disappointed in myself because I felt I had failed as a mother. I kept wondering where I went wrong. What I had failed to teach him that could have allowed him to make such an ignorant decision.
I was also disappointed in him because I knew he had so much potential. He was always a smart and hardworking boy. Like most mothers, I knew he could grow up to do whatever he wanted, to be whatever he wanted, to achieve anything. So, seeing him in front of Judge Kitchens, being sentenced to prison for possession of cocaine with an intent, I couldn't help but think about all the potential he wasted.
Even at that moment, though, I still believed in him. Throughout his prison term I kept advising him to believe in himself, to renew his faith in the power of the Lord and to study and learn a trade so he wouldn't have to resort to illegal activities ever again. Then, when he got out of prison, I kept a sharp eye on him, making sure he stayed away from friends who were involved in that old lifestyle, and reminding him of his potential.
Shortly after he got out, he went to welding school. He never missed a class and graduated with all As. He completed probation without any problems. At this point, I really started to believe my son had turned his life around; that he was finally ready to live up to his potential.
Then, I learned he could never completely move on from his past mistake. After becoming a certified welder, a lot of employers told him he they could not hire him with a felony on his record. Someone suggested he get it expunged. It was his first and only felony, and he paid a steep price for it, so we thought the law would give him a second chance, would allow him to regain his potential by not keeping a significant barrier like a felony in front of him.
Unfortunately, we learned that charges for possession with intent to distribute cocaine cannot be expunged in Mississippi. No matter what my son did, how far he got in life, how many years past from when he made this mistake, he would always be a felon.
Then, as I talked to more and more people, and did more and more research, I learned of the thousands and thousands of young men, like my son, who had similar sale of illegal drug convictions on their record. I thought about how they were also now scarred for life, not able to move on from their first mistake. This, to me, seemed wrong.
Now, I don't mean to condone drug dealing. It's immoral and people should not be allowed to do it. Nobody was more disappointed in my son for what he did than me. Nobody. However, I also know how hard he's worked to move on from that mistake, to build a new and better life for himself. With so many young males in a similar situation, it would seem to me it would be fair and just that the law should allow the first sale charge to be expunged after so many years. Even if it's a significant period of time, at least it gives these young men hope and motivation to stay on the right path and avoid the temptation to take the easy route again. I hope our state legislature will address this and give these young men, like my son, a second chance to live up to their potential.
Luberta Bouldes, Columbus
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