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Jaime Woodard is an activist in New Jersey who started the We Deserve Our Lives web site to spread awareness about the injustices facing former prisoners trying to put their lives back together. Alongside the Supporters of Expungement Legislation Community their activism has extended to pressuring members of congress to pass the bill HR 2449 The Fresh Start Act of 2011 which would permit expungement provisions for first time non violent ex federal offenders for their one and only non violent felony offense. Several key community members have developed a free online booklet to share and spread information about first time, non violent ex -federal offenders. Here, Jaime talks about the struggle for the community of first time non violent ex federal offenders and tells his personal story that led him to start the web site.”
WeDeserve Our Lives…

Support the federal bill H.R. 2065

Hello my name is Jaime Woodard, I am the founder of We Deserve Our Lives and one of the facilitators of our non violent ex federal offenders community group

Provisions for an expungement law that would help non-violent state offenders are great. In fact the more provisions on a state level brings our community of first-time, non- violent, ex-federal offenders closer to our single provision for an expungement on a federal level. We are the community that is ignored . We are a multi race community united for a common cause .

We are first time , non-violent ,ex-federal offenders that are never mentioned yet we are grouped and talied with statistics that only benefit non-violent state offenders and exclude the non violent , ex-federal offender population.

Our cause is equally important. The disparities in provisions for an expungement leads us to determine that unless we teach the world of the unfairness we have been enduring as first time non violent ex- federal offenders our cause will be left unnoticed. Corporations, correctional facilities, the media and politicians have continued to redline our community during and after the rehabilitation process. Which enhances public hysteria, promotes recidivism and demoralizes any return to self sufficiency.

I have listened to many committees, panels and groups speak about ex-offenders. They have promised to understand our cause, they have said it is not fair the way we are treated.They have claimed that their staff is aware of HR 2065 the bill for non violent ex- federal offenders.

How can they help us without any representatives from our community? Law enforcement has reps that are or were officers. Firefighters have reps that are or were firefighters but forums that concern our future lack the key essential which is a member of our community. We have judges, politicians and businessmen deciding our fate.
Deciding if we are good enough for parole or probation.
Deciding how many years that past before we are deemed worthy citizens. Deciding which programs they can cut and which ones we need.

Taking our rights away for life and boasting that they are fighting to end recidivism.

They broker back door deals to build more prisons and lobby to politicians to create feferal laws to keep there jails full. Minimizing recidivism would have a direct effect on the fast growing for profit prison industry.

The federal bill HR 2449 The Fresh Start Act of 2011 would allow provisions for an expungement for first-time, non-violent, ex-federal offenders who meet the bills criteria. Previous federal bills have died in committee for the past decade. If this bill is not reintroduced or does not become law, many first-time, non-violent, ex-federal offenders are going to have their one and only non-violent conviction for the rest of their lives.

Brave members of congress such as Congressman Charlie Rangel ( D- New York) who spearheaded the sponsorship of the bill for 10 years and Congressman Steven Cohen ( D- Tenn ) who re-introduced the bill in the last congressional session should be honored for bringing our group together.

Our movement is for anyone who demands change and who is willingly to voice their concern about the lack of justice in the justice system. All of our members are leaders in the movement for first time , non violent, ex- federal offenders. We need leaders on the front line or covert leaders of information in our cause for an expungement provision.

No one has vested interest in our cause except our community.
We are a muti-race community united for a common cause. Our community is a family in the struggle for fairness.
Our community reminds me of Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Aurelia Browder and Susie McDonald. These women all refused to sit in the back of the bus before Rosa Parks. The NAACP was looking for the perfect person to spearhead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks was their perfect person.
I just don’t want our cause to go unnoticed by all the people we contacted because they are looking for the perfect candidates to support.

We are not asking for a political favor.
We are not making excuses for our crime. We are not glorifying criminal activity. We have been convicted, served our time and endured hardship as a fair post release punishment.
We are asking that our politicians consider the humanitarian aspect of our cause.
We are asking that a bill pass into law to allow first-time, non-violent, ex-federal offenders the opportunity to expunged there one and only record. Our community of first time, non violent ex federal offenders will not allow our representatives to ignore us because they assume we can not vote. Many states allow ex offenders to vote after we have completed our parole / probation. Some states allow us to vote after our release.

We all can’t contribute the same. We all are leaders but we do need the help of the members to move forward. I hate to sound like a broken record but Congress does not care how successful we are post incarceration. We have to make them believe and prove by law and or the Constitution that there are disparities in sentencing and in post incarceration policies. Members of congress and the subcommittee on crime and terrorism have repeated this soft on crime slogan for decades. They don’t want us continue to succeed.

The non profit industrial complex, the faith based industrial complex and other industrial complexes that monopolizes on grant funding to help the ex offender community has not been successful.

What is important to an ex offender for re-entry?

Employment which leads to self suffiecieny. Accredited trade schools, colleges and universities not fly by night industrial complex learning programs.

Counselers from our community of ex offenders who relate to our struggle, those who have a person dear to them in the re entry struggle and or a counselor who has a genuine concern for our community.

In the meantime Homeland Security and the subcommittee on crime and terrorism branch will not even discuss the bills that have been introduced for more than a decade. They continue to rant that they are not soft on crime
The soft on crime stance really means that they are hard on success stories, self-suffiecieny post incarceration and any idea of a second chance.

It’s obvious that a federal expungement law lies solely in the hands of congress and the subcommittee on crime and terrorism. They have no intentions of legislative provisions for an expungement on a federal level. Rehabilitation is just a play of words to keep our minds at odds with the fact that recidivism is thier profit agenda.
It’s an industry of absolute greed,
in other words there is more money in the problem ( first time non violent ex federal offenders ) than the solution( legislation for expungement provisions).

I want to end by saying we have trade skills , we are educated, we want careers and we deserve our lives

My Story
Jaime L. Woodard

Ten years ago, I was convicted of “theft of mail by an officer or an employee of the United States Postal Service”.¬† The creation of the We Deserve Our Lives Back web site is a direct result of the lifetime stigma and collateral consequences of that first time, non-violent mistake.
Upon completion of my court ordered punishment, I thought, as many do, that I had “paid my debt” to society and would be allowed to pick up my life and move forward. ¬†I quickly found that nothing could be further from the truth. I only wanted to have my life back and I knew that the first thing I needed to do in order to achieve that goal was to secure meaningful employment.¬† I made several applications for employment and was denied two great opportunities because of my felony conviction.¬† I thought of the site name We Deserve Our Lives Back because I knew I was not the only¬†person in the world, who has been denied employment because of a felony conviction.
I was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey on Clinton Avenue near the junction area of the city.  I attended St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Marist High School, and Hillside High School for about two weeks, then returned to Marist, and graduated in 1991. That same year I was accepted to John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  I partied hard and as a result was put on academic probation.  I decided to leave college and accepted a full time position as a casual and transitional employee for the U.S. Postal Service with the idea of becoming a permanent employee. I watched as dozens of people were hired as regular employees, while I continued to work as a temporary employee with no benefits and low wages.
I began¬†selling credit cards and checks that I stole in 1996 and 1997.¬† I¬†was caught in 1997 by the postal inspectors.¬† The day¬†I was caught¬†was like a scene from a Hollywood movie. ¬†I remember grabbing a laptop and a couple of other items and leaving to run my route.¬† I returned to the post office at the end of¬†my route, put the items in¬†my car and¬†left. ¬†I heard sirens and assumed it was an ambulance, but I¬†remember gazing in¬†the mirror and seeing two or three¬†Crown Victoria’s in pursuit. ¬†They pulled me over and jumped out of their car with their firearms drawn as if¬†I was a wanted fugitive. ¬†I was arrested and taken to Newark, which is the¬†postal inspector’s headquarters. ¬†My girlfriend who was with me had no idea what was going on and was obviously very upset. The authorities used her distress to play on her fear to make her admit that she was¬†part of my criminal activity. The truth is that she was not involved in any way but the postal inspectors threatened to call child protective services if she did not cooperate.¬† As do many, when threatened with the full weight of the United States Government, she told them what they wanted to hear. ¬†She now has a federal misdemeanor because of me and I have a federal felony because I stole mail.¬†I sincerely regret making such a foolish mistake in the first place and especially regret involving her in something that¬†I did.
I decided to go back to school while awaiting my fate with the federal court system.  I enrolled in Hudson County Community College with the help of unemployment’s tuition wavier program.  I also attended a court mandated pre-trial intervention program at Integrity House Inc. in Newark, N.J.  I attended the college for two semesters before being sentenced in April of 1999 to 14 to 21 months under the federal guidelines for Theft of Mail by an Officer or Employee of the United States Postal Service.  My attorney worked out a plea agreement that would allow me to self-surrender on May 5th, 1999 to the Bureau of Prisons Fairton Correctional Facility work camp in Cumberland County.  I served 10 months in Fairton correctional Facility and was then released to Kintock half way house in Newark. I also returned as an outpatient to Integrity House to complete their program.  I gained employment at a sweatshop that made sheets, pillowcases and blankets for $5.25 an hour. I completed my stay at the halfway house and began a three-year term of supervised release.
I returned to Hudson County Community College where I took interest in a psychology class taught by Professor Lee Harcerold.  I decided that the study of psychology was to be my new path.  Keith Davis, a childhood friend, helped me get an interview with Women Rising formerly known as the Jersey City Y.W.C.A.  I was able to secure a position there in a program to assist individuals who were on the verge of losing their government benefits due to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.  I was trained by Becky Mendoza and started as an outreach counselor.  My mentor and supervisor Michele Odoem inspired me to become an extrovert if I wanted to succeed in life.  Four year later, I became the program coordinator.  I also instructed G.E.D classes at another local welfare to work organization in Jersey City called World Wide Educational Services.
I graduated from Hudson County Community College with an Associate’s degree in liberal arts in Psychology in 2005 and a Bachelors degree in Psychology from New Jersey City University with a minor in Physical Fitness in 2008. I made the Dean’s list in Hudson County Community college as well as in New Jersey City University. I have made application for acceptance in Masters Degree in social Work program and I am waiting for a response.
There are many like me who made a one-time only mistake that has resulted in a lifetime of punishment. That unwarranted punishment is, in effect, a civil death sentence because of the barriers to meaningful employment created by that sigma.¬† We regret our mistakes, we do not intend to repeat them, we have worked hard to overcome them and improve ourselves.¬† We only want our lives back and we deserve a “Second Chance.”
I had been lead to believe that there was a chance that I may be able to make application to the courts to have my criminal record expunged.¬† I called the law offices of Weinstein & Cappurrino to see if there was any validity to the possibility.¬† A legal secretary with the firm and my lawyers¬†informed me that I could not get¬†my record expunged because my case was federal. ¬†Many states do have provisions for expunction of state offenses but under current law, there is no provision for expungement of federal offenses.¬† The legal secretary informed me of H.R. 1529 (at the time it was H.R. 623 and currently¬†H.R.2065 — Fresh Start Act of 2011 (Introduced in House – IH) To permit expungement of records of certain nonviolent criminal offenses, and for other purposes. ) which was introduced by Congressman Rangel to correct that inequity.
In December 2008, I started a website called We Deserve Our Lives to support H.R. 2065 the “Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009.  I along with many others have a life sentence under current law. If it takes the rest of my life, I will petition, rally, hold demonstrations and speak to any group that is willing to listen.  I will do this in a peaceable to promote the passing of the bill H.R. 2065to make sure it becomes law.
Jaime Woodard
[email protected]
201 966 1251

We Deserve Our Lives

One of several facilitators of the expungement legislation group

Expungement Legialation Group Booklet

Congressman Steven Cohen of Tennessee( D )
The Fresh Start Act of 2011..HR 2449

Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York ( D )
The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2011

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