Rhode Island State Representative Carlos Tobon (D-Pawtucket) recently introduced a resolution at the annual summit of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) that applauds the efforts of the #AutoErase Initiative to bring awareness that arrest records still exist even after an individual is released as innocent; calls on law enforcement agencies to automatically erase records of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested; and supports that the innocent individual can under all circumstances deny the arrest.
Inspired by the wrongful arrest of Hollywood Producer and Entertainment Executive, Charles Belk, who was handcuffed on a curb for 45 minutes on August 22, 2014. Belk was then placed in a jail cell for six hours under a $100,000 bail on felony armed bank robbery charges, because he was mistakenly identified as the wrong tall, bald, Black male, fitting the description of a suspected accomplice.
The resolution was also introduced at the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) by Illinois State Representative Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), whose #AutoErase legislation becomes effective as law on January 1, 2015. Both resolutions passed unanimously and provide a platform for each of the organizations’ members to introduce legislation in their respective states.
“This is a very timely and logical concept, that if you are innocent before being mistakenly identified and arrested, that you should not have an arrest record after you have been released as innocent because a mistake was made,” said Representative Tobon, who also introduced HB5450 -- #AutoErase legislation which was passed unanimously by the Rhode Island House.
In addition to Illinois, legislation in North Carolina introduced in support of #AutoErase was signed into law in August 2015, and became effective December 1, 2015.
“Rhode Island has been very supportive of this initiative, which was demonstrated, I believe, by the fact that companion bills were introduced in both the House and Senate, and the members of the Rhode Island House actually passed a resolution honoring me and my efforts during a visit to the state in February,” said Belk, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of Fitting The Description. “To be a part of our country’s criminal justice reform by helping to establish two new laws and rallying support from both the NBCSL and the NHCSL for #AutoErase is very exciting and creates a feeling of redemption!”
ABOUT FITTING THE DESCRIPTION
Fitting The Description is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization established to help build awareness of the countless number of individuals who are wrongfully detained and/or arrested each day because they "fit the description." Fitting The Description helps identify these teachable moments for educational purposes, and works to reform the criminal justice system and make the promise of fair treatment a reality for all people.
The National Hispanic Caucus of Hispanic State Legislators (NHCSL) was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3. The mission of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) is to be the foremost organization serving and representing the interests of Hispanic state legislators from all states, commonwealths and territories of the United States and the Western Hemisphere. The NHCSL meets its mission by serving as a catalyst for joint action on issues of common concern, such as housing, immigration, education and healthcare, to all segments of the Hispanic community.
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) primary mission is to develop, conduct and promote educational, research and training programs designed to enhance the effectiveness of its members, as they consider legislation and issues of public policy which impact, either directly or indirectly upon "the general welfare" of African American constituents within their respective jurisdictions.