[Kenneth P. Thompson]
Lu-Shawn Thompson: “My husband was a man of vision. He believed in the power of second chances and thought everyone should have the opportunity to overcome mistakes from their past. During his time in office, he fought to lighten the penalties for those charged with low level offenses and exonerated over 20 wrongfully accused persons.”
Today, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07) each introduced legislation to honor Kenneth P. Thompson, who served as the District Attorney of Kings County, New York, from 2014 until his passing four years ago on October 9, 2016.
The legislation would allow judges to expunge the records of more low-level drug offenders to provide a second chance to individuals and provide juvenal offenders the resources they need to reenter society successfully.
“Ken Thompson was a groundbreaking district attorney who elevated the integrity and fairness of the criminal justice system in Kings County to unprecedented heights. He was a transformational figure in the fight for criminal justice reform nationally and a staunch defender of the safety and security of Brooklynites at home,” said Congressman Jeffries. “I am honored to join Rep. Velázquez and his widow Lu-Shawn Thompson to introduce legislation to carry forward my friend’s remarkable legacy by allowing low-level drug offenders a second chance to succeed in society and live a productive life.”
“Brooklyn’s own Ken Thompson was a powerful advocate for justice for all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “His groundbreaking tenure as Kings County District Attorney ushered in a new era of progressive reforms that continue to serve as a model for addressing systemic racism and inequity in America. I am honored to join Mr. Thompson’s widow Lu-Shawn Thompson and my colleague Representative Jeffries in announcing new bills in his namesake. My bill, the Kenneth P. Thompson Civic Justice Corps Act of 2019, would provide grants to community organizations to help provide opportunities for our young adults to flourish.”
“My husband was a man of vision. He believed in the power of second chances and thought everyone should have the opportunity to overcome mistakes from their past,” said Lu-Shawn Thompson. “During his time in office, he fought to lighten the penalties for those charged with low level offenses and exonerated over 20 wrongfully accused persons. His legacy lives on and extends beyond the borders of Brooklyn. I know he would be proud to have his name attached to these two important pieces of legislation that will expunge the record of first-time offenders charged with low level, non-violent offenses. This bill would allow a segment of the population to re-enter society without the convicted felon stigma. On behalf of my family, we thank you all.”
Throughout his career as a federal prosecutor, in private practice and as Brooklyn’s first African American District Attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson elevated the integrity and fairness of the criminal justice system and was an adamant voice for social and racial justice.
During his tenure as District Attorney, Mr. Thompson established a Conviction Review Unit, which moved to vacate or support the dismissal of the convictions of 21 people who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other offenses. He also implemented a groundbreaking policy not to prosecute low-level marijuana possession arrests in order to spare young people from the burden of a criminal record.
Rep. Jeffries’ bill, the bipartisan Kenneth P. Thompson Begin Again Act, would expand a Reagan-era statute to make more people eligible for expungement of a first-time simple drug possession offense. Specifically, the legislation eliminates an unnecessary age requirement, allowing judges to give more low-level drug offenders a second chance to pursue a productive, law-abiding life.
The legislation is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity, Brennan Center for Justice, Due Process Institute, FreedomWorks, Justice Action Network, JustLeadershipUSA, NAACP, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Employment Law Project, Prison Fellowship, Right on Crime and Safer Foundation.
A coalition letter of support can be found here.
Rep. Velázquez’s bill, the Kenneth P. Thompson Civic Justice Corps Act of 2019, would provide grants to fund conservation corps and community-based organizations to target young adults between the ages of 16 and 25, and provide services including – but not limited to educational support leading to a high school diploma or equivalent certification, and assistance with professional development.