AUBURN — Thirty years ago, Dan was just turning 18 and spent the weekend with several friends partying at a cabin in the Maine woods, owned by the father of his buddy’s girlfriend. There was alcohol involved, and his buddy took a shotgun from the cabin that didn’t belong to him.

Thirty years later, Dan is still haunted by this weekend of teenage hooliganism.

His buddy’s girlfriend’s father pressed charges. Dan and his friends were charged with felony burglary, and he was sentenced to two years’ probation. But if the legal system was supposed to teach him a lesson from this experience, he seemed to learn it. For the next 15 years, he was a model citizen and even managed to join the Army National Guard.

About the time Dan was preparing to deploy to Iraq, he was recognized for his skill with the M16 rifle and was to be sent to New York to represent his company in a shooting competition. But everyone being deployed to Iraq was subject to a fresh background check, and that’s when his 15-year-old felony conviction became a problem.

The National Guard Bureau gave him permission to deploy, provided he could get a pardon. But for the Maine Board of Executive Clemency, which is notoriously stingy in issuing pardons, his pending deployment to Iraq did not meet their standards for “exceptional circumstances.”

Dan’s pardon was rejected and he was discharged from the Army National Guard. He lost all his medical benefits and was barred from federal employment. The once highly skilled Army sniper no longer had the right to own a firearm. With a felony record, most employers wouldn’t hire him and while he was able to earn a modest living with his commercial driver’s license, opportunities were severely limited by a lack of legal ability to travel to Canada.

Dan’s story may be unique in the specific details, but the situation he finds himself in today – still paying the price for a nonviolent crime many decades in the past – is far too common here in Maine. During my four years in the Maine Senate, I heard similar stories from many constituents who had made youthful mistakes, pleading for relief and an opportunity to move on with their lives.

That’s why I sponsored legislation two years ago, along with then-state Sen. Amy Volk of Scarborough, that would have allowed Maine people convicted of certain nonviolent crimes to petition the court that convicted them for expungement of their records and restoration of their rights, as long as they have served their time and have gone at least five years without re-offense.

Maine, not having such a process in place, is an outlier. As “Second Chance” laws have been championed by both conservatives (like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin) and liberals (like Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf), most states now have some version of this policy in place. The call for criminal justice reform has become so loud that even on the federal level President Trump has taken action, signing into law the historic and bipartisan First Step Act.

Two years ago, I made the mistake of believing that the common sense of the “Second Chance” proposal would make its passage an easy sell with my colleagues in the Maine House and Senate, only to discover that the old sentiment of “once a criminal, always a criminal” remains far too prevalent in the halls of Augusta. This measure was resoundingly rejected by both the Criminal Justice Committee and the broader Legislature.

As for Dan, he is still seeking a way forward. Two years ago, he applied again for a pardon. His application was rejected. Today, he is considering whether to apply once more or to seek a direct audience with the new governor, Janet Mills. He is uncertain if either would be productive.

But one thing is certain: The Maine Legislature has the power to fix this problem, not only for Dan, but for all Maine people like him as well. It’s past time for the Maine Legislature to take the issue of criminal justice reform seriously and to pass the Second Chance Act.

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