Should Georgia wipe clean some criminal records?

Sarah Hamilton’s January arrest based on a mistaken identity has kept the whole family in turmoil even after police dropped the charges against the 26-year-old former honor graduate, her father told a hushed Senate hearing Tuesday.

“The system carelessly wronged a private citizen, my daughter Sarah. Is it not the government’s moral obligation to correct it?” asked John Hamilton, chairman of the health-textile company Compass Group of McDonough.

The story he recounted provided a dramatic climax to a morning-long hearing of a special Senate committee studying the issue of expungement reform, the removal of criminal records. Experts say Georgia – which has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates – is among the toughest on young people trying to find jobs after getting a criminal record, even when charges are dropped.

John Hamilton said he expects it will take many more months to have her record clean, running the risk that her reputation and career could be damaged in the meantime by anyone looking at government records on the internet.

“Sarah doesn’t deserve this treatment,” he said, noting that a cab driver mistook her for another woman in her apartment complex who was too drunk to pay the fare.

Thomas Weaver of Canton also testified that his career had been harmed because he was convicted of carrying a gun in a public park just months before the legislature changed the law to make it permissible.

Mobile Augusta.

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