22:09, January 28 193 0 abajournal.com

2019-01-28 22:09:07
ABA House resolutions tackle expungement, prisoners’ rights and child abuse

handcuffs, a gavel and a law book.

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The ABA House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a trio of resolutions targeting criminal justice reforms Monday at the Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas.

Resolution 109B urges legislatures to define criminal arrests, charges and dispositions that are eligible for expungement or removal from public view via sealing, and to establish application procedures for individuals who have been arrested, charged or convicted.

Stephen A. Saltzburg of Washington, D.C., the delegate from the Criminal Justice Section, said the section has worked to limit the lifespan of records of individuals who are returning from jail or prison back to school, work and homes since 2004. This resolution, he said, would not only make rules relating to expungement and sealing consistent, but also encourage procedures to fairly process applicants.

“In most places, even if you can get a record expunged, these folks coming out have no clue how to do it,” he said. “There is not right to counsel when it comes to sealing, no right to counsel when it comes to expungement.”

The resolution builds on two resolutions related to expungement previously adopted by the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2017.

Resolution 109C calls on governments to enact legislation, and correctional and detention facilities to enact policies, that provide all female prisoners with unrestricted access to free toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.

Neal R. Sonnett of Florida, also a member of the Criminal Justice Section, contended that this resolution addresses an important issue, as women comprise the fastest growing segment of jailed individuals. He said even though there are more than 200,000 women confined in prisons or jails across the country, most facilities continue to be geared toward men.

“Institutions have failed to understand exactly what female prisoners, both adult and juvenile, need in order to respond to their monthly needs,” Sonnett said.

While several states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have instituted policies to provide women with access to free toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, Sonnett added that “we think it ought to be nationwide.”

Resolution 109D urges legislatures to amend or enact laws to clearly define child torture, making it a felony offense regardless of whether a child suffers serious physical injury. It also asks jurisdictions to educate judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and other relevant personnel on emerging issues in child protection.

Saltzburg, who also addressed the House of Delegates on this resolution, offered a “shocking statistic,” saying that an estimated 676,000 children were abused or neglected in 2016, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report. Despite the Criminal Justice Section’s concerns with overcriminalization, he said members felt it was time to amend or enact penalties to include a felony charge to “begin to do a better job of helping our children who are abused.”

The ABA previously addressed this issue in 2013, by adopting a resolution urging states to review and potentially strengthen their child abuse and neglect laws.