Citizens advocate for North Carolinians with criminal records at Second Chance Lobby Day

RALEIGH (May 5, 2015) — North Carolinians with criminal records, their family members and advocates gathered at the North Carolina General Assembly Tuesday to advocate for policies that pave the way to productive citizenship.

The lobby day was hosted by The Second Chance Alliance, a statewide coalition of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders, and directly impacted and concerned citizens working to promote polices that provide individuals with criminal records a second chance at life.

“We’re trying to remove the barriers hindering people from getting work and housing, and help those same people have productive lives that allow them to stay out of jail,” said Dennis Gaddy, Executive Director of the nonprofit Community Success Initiative, which works to help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet. “A critical piece of that work is making sure that formerly incarcerated men and women can come to the halls of the legislature and feel empowered to speak directly to decision makers.”

The biennial Second Chance Lobby Day is part of a growing national movement to provide genuine restorative opportunities to individuals ready to move beyond their criminal records and contribute to their families and communities. Second Chance initiatives have earned bipartisan support from lawmakers here in North Carolina, as well as in other states like Georgia, where the governor issued a Ban the Box executive order in February.

Erik Ortega is the Program Director for LifeWorks!, a Charlotte-based reentry agency. After a drug-related arrest at age 19, Ortega was incarcerated for more than six years.

“If it wasn’t for reentry systems in the community, I don’t think I’d be here today,” Ortega said. “Nothing prepares you for what life is like after you’re released. Reentry systems allowed me to rejoin my community. What’s so important about these systems is that they treat people not as what they’ve done, but as who they can become.”

Lobby Day attendees focused their meetings with lawmakers on a number of proposals currently under consideration at the General Assembly, including:

  • Adequately funding and coordinating community-based reentry service systems;
  • Establishing a reasonable waiting period for expunction of non-violent crimes;
  • Expanding access to certificates of relief;
  • Ensuring fair use of criminal records for jobseekers;
  • Raising the age for adult prosecution of misdemeanors to 18.

More information regarding the Second Chance Alliance policy agenda can be found here.

Some quick facts:

  • 1.6 million North Carolinians have a criminal record
  • Approximately 37,000 people are currently imprisoned in NC
  • 98% of people in prison will eventually be released
  • Costs over $23,000 a year to incarcerate one person
  • 2-year recidivism rate of 41% in NC

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Rowe,, (919) 649-6766; Daniel Bowes,, (336) 263-7477; or Jeff Shaw,, (503) 551-3615.