A bill sponsored by Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, is designed to give juvenile offenders the opportunity to earn a living and find housing as adults without being haunted by their past.
The laws governing juvenile records were written decades ago before information was disseminated to potential employers and landlords by credit bureaus and commercial database companies. Senate Bill 6292 would update laws to reflect the modern flow of information while protecting public safety.
The bill ensures that the records of juveniles who commit serious violent offenses remain open to the public. Records for lesser crimes will be made confidential unless a judge finds a compelling reason to make them public.
All juvenile records will continue to be available to the courts so that judges, prosecutors and those administering treatment and supervision are familiar with an offender’s history.
“Our goal is to make sure kids don’t become career criminals. We make a promise to the kids who enter our justice system that if they pay their dues, go through treatment, do their time and don’t reoffend that they will have the opportunity to lead normal lives,” Harper said. “This bill will make sure that credit card companies and other for-profit databases aren’t allowed to break that promise for lesser crimes that have been rectified through rehabilitation.”
“However, if someone is a persistent offender I believe they forfeit that right to confidentiality.”
SB 6292, heard Friday by the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee, came as a result of the bi-partisan recommendations received from the Juvenile Records Sealing Task Force. Groups and individuals who signed up in favor of the bill include the Washington State Superior Court Judges Association, the Juvenile Court Administrators, children’s advocates and record sealing experts.