The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar

Splash! Summer guide

HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Sunday, March 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View/Sealing Juvenile Records


Addressing the real problem

State senators contemplating the juvenile justice system have demonstrated that it’s possible to be compassionate and level-headed at the same time.
A bill to automatically seal court records for juveniles guilty of all but a handful of heinous crimes rolled through the House and picked up momentum during Senate hearings. It had the noble intention of preventing people from marring their permanent records through youthful misjudgments.
The concept was so appealing, in fact, that lawmakers were willing to set aside issues like government transparency, court accountability — even the declaration of our state constitution: “Justice in all cases shall be administered openly.”
Proponents of H.B. 1651 have cited instances in which young adults were denied jobs, housing or college admission when background checks uncovered things like drug infractions, thefts or assaults on their juvenile records.
One sympathetic young woman, now a law-abiding military wife, told legislators she has been unable to find current employment because she committed a theft when she was a juvenile.
One problem with this line of argument: Teens and young adults who have behaved themselves are already entitled to request the clearing or sealing of their juvenile records. (Admittedly, the reach of the Internet creates urgency for doing this effectively.)
A legal project in Seattle now coaches juvenile offenders on how to navigate the court system to have their records cleaned up. The very need for this training exposes the disheartening truth that different people have varying levels of access to this potential remedy.
Here’s where levelheadedness makes an appearance. The original bill would automatically have sealed virtually all records for juvenile offenders, from the point of arrest onward — a sweeping and potentially disruptive change to our open justice system.
In an amended bill, senators took the right approach, addressing the problem of unequal and inconsistent administration of the process for sealing records.
Under the senate’s version, courts will administratively schedule opportunities for offenders who have turned 18 (and met all the terms and costs of their court sentences) to apply to have their cases sealed. And they’ll be able to do this without appearing in court or hiring a lawyer.
We live in a time when win-win solutions are disparaged, and compromise is viewed as a dilution of “virtue.” Champions of H.B. 1651 no doubt believe they are pursuing a great good by shielding young offenders from long-term consequences. The Senate action shows the problem can be addressed incisively, effectively and without undue harm to our state’s fundamental principles.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

Herald Editorial Board

Peter Jackson, Opinion Editor: pjackson@heraldnet.com (@PeterJHerald)

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Jon Bauer, News Editor/Content Development: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

Labor of love
Labor of love: Volunteer crews work hard to maintain Pacific Crest Trail
Good times in Snohomish
Good times in Snohomish: Kla Ha Ya Days full of fun (gallery)
Humoody's Way
Humoody's Way: Blinded at 2, Snohomish boy lives with no holds barred
Northern sights
Northern sights: 3 ways to sample the wonders of the N. Cascades (video)