Late last year, the ACLU of Wyoming published “Bucking the Trend,” our report highlighting the number of bills the legislature has passed over four years which create new crimes or increase criminal penalties. The number was staggering: over 70 new crimes or increased penalties in just four years. The effects are clear: the number of people under the supervision of the Department of Corrections is skyrocketing, and Wyoming’s prisons are full.
But this year, the tide could turn. Already several legislators and the House Judiciary Committee have introduced bills to move criminal justice reforms forward. We have outlined the bills below, and we encourage you to contact your legislators today to ask them to support these bills.
HB 11 – Professional licensing – time limit regarding convictions
House Bill 11 would prohibit professional licensing lifetime bans on people with criminal convictions. With few exceptions, this would ensure people who are convicted of a crime are not permanently banned from entering into a career requiring a license. We strongly support this bill, as a criminal conviction should not be a life sentence to second-class citizen.
HB 42 – Justice reform – graduated sanctions
House Bill 42 would provide for alternatives to probation or parole violations. Rather than putting people behind bars for the full duration of their original sentence, people would be given short-term jail sentences or other alternatives. In interim hearings on the bill, representatives from the Department of Corrections testified this bill could prevent up to 200 people a year from being sent to prison for parole or probation violations.
HB 55 – Property offenses
House Bill 55 would change a significant number of property crime laws by increasing the amount of property damage that must occur for various civil or criminal offenses. Property crime disproportionately impacts women and low-income individuals, and for many Wyoming property crimes the threshold is very low, making it possible for a person to be convicted of a felony and facing up to ten years in prison for damaging $1,000 of property. This is a long-overdue piece of legislation we strongly support.
SF 42 – Professional licensing – applicant criminal records
Senate File 42 would also alter how professional licensing boards handle prior criminal convictions. It would require boards to only consider criminal convictions related to the profession being licensed, again with few exceptions. This bill would go a long way in ensuring people who have served their time are not treated as second-class citizens.
HB 112 – Municipal courts maximum probationary period
House Bill 112 would lower the amount of probation time municipal courts are allowed to order for people in certain treatment programs. Currently, judges can order people to undergo up to three years of additional probation. This bill would limit that time to one year, reducing by two-thirds the amount of time people would be under the supervision of the criminal justice system and dramatically reducing costs.
HB 114 – Expungement of juvenile records
House Bill 114 would allow the state or a municipality to petition to expunge – or clear – juvenile records of charges or convictions. This bill would create another avenue for youth offenses to be cleaned from the records, a good step in the direction of reform and rehabilitation, not criminalization.