Hansen’s New Hope Act gives hope for a second chance

OLYMPIA – On Thursday, April 18, the New Hope Act received final passage from both the State House and Senate. Sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, House Bill 1041 (the New Hope Act) is a bipartisan criminal justice reform proposal that will help people who have spent time in prison rebuild their lives. The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.

“People who have spent some time in prison need a chance to get their lives back on track,” said Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, who sponsored the measure. “This bill removes some of the barriers that are preventing people from rebuilding their lives and gives them hope for a second chance.”

The bill (1) streamlines the process for vacating a criminal conviction, (2) aligns the misdemeanor vacation rules with the felony vacation rules, changing the current laws where people can vacate unlimited felonies but only one misdemeanor, and (3) permits people who meet the criteria to petition a court to vacate certain types of robbery in the second degree, assault in the second degree, and assault in the third degree offenses.

A criminal conviction can mean a lifetime of consequences that can affect employment, business opportunities, housing, and more. These hurdles make it difficult to become a productive member of society. Rep. Hansen’s bill will expand opportunities for people to vacate their criminal convictions when they have turned their lives around.

“The current system doesn’t work for survivors or people who have caused harm,” said Devitta Briscoe, survivor network coordinator with the Public Defenders Association. “People with convictions who have served their time need an opportunity to put their lives back together. Victims want the cycle of violence to stop. None of this can happen without housing and a good job. Convictions prevent both of these years after people with convictions have paid their debt. When you give people hope you help them find the right path in life and avoid a life of crime.”

The bill was supported by a wide coalition, including formerly incarcerated people, judges, prosecutors, and more. “As a prosecutor we try to seek justice and we believe that the principles that are laid out in this bill do seek justice,” said Russ Brown, Executive Director of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “Justice means that an offender pays their debt to society but it also means they have a path forward that is why we support this bill.”

With concurrence passage by the House of Representatives, the New Hope Act now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.