Proponents Say Bills Give Reformed Offenders A Second Chance; Opponents Say They Go Too Far, Are Pro-CriminalBy Carolyn Gusoff

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With less than a week left in the legislative session in Albany, there is a push to pass a package of criminal justice reform bills.

Proponents say they benefit society by giving reformed offenders a second chance. Opponents say they are pro-criminal and dangerous.

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Caroline Hansen hears every day from her husband, Kristian, from behind bars. Convicted for murdering a cab driver, he was sentenced to life without parole.

A bill in Albany offers a chance at parole.

“He was a young, uneducated, drug-addicted teen. Today, he is a man of integrity. He has worked so hard to show people that there’s another way,” Hansen told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

He’d get to plead his case before a parole board when he turns 55. Parole overhaul would enable older inmates and other transformed offenders who have served 15 years be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“I think five minutes of your life shouldn’t define who you are going to be forever,” Hansen said.

Another measure, the Clean Slate Bill, would expunge criminal records once a person served their time. Supporters say it also corrects years of racially biased arrests and convictions.

“These bills are common sense. They are not radical in any way,” said Serena Liguori, with New HOUR for Women and Children – LI. “It is simply allowing people who have served their time to not be discriminated against when applying for jobs or housing.”

“Many of the individuals have served significant amount of time for such small offenses, non-violent offenses,” New York State Assembly Member Michaelle Solages said.

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“This is absolutely insane,” New York State Sen. Phil Boyle said.

Opponents, including victims of violent crimes, say the bills go way too far.

“Pro-criminal pieces of legislation can slip in the middle of night,” Boyle said.

Displaying a rogues’ gallery of some of New York’s most notorious.

“You look at … Son of Sam, Colin Ferguson who slaughtered those people on the train … He would be eligible to get out. This is so offensive to society as a whole,” New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo said.

“This is dangerous. It’s deadly. It’s another slap in the face to victims like me,” said Jennifer Harrison, with Victims’ Rights NY.

Advocates say it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card, but a chance to change.

“You can transform yourself. You can be rehabilitated,” Hansen said.

There are strong opinions on both sides with time running out. The session in Albany ends on June 10.

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Rallies supporting the bills are planned this weekend.

Carolyn Gusoff