DES MOINES, Iowa -- For years, activists have been pushing lawmakers to make a change for troubled youth. A bill signed into law Wednesday will now allow judges to keep juveniles' offenses confidential.
Several dozen people came from a variety of backgrounds--government, legal, law enforcement, non-profit, foster kids, activists--and surrounded Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Tuesday morning at the Iowa Statehouse.
For Hakeem Williams, his juvenile record wasn't bad enough for jail as an adult. But it has been enough to give future employers pause, all because he was a know-it-all-teen in Des Moines who left his mother's advice back in Chicago.
“I just wanted to be buck wild. I had fun, did some dumb stuff,” Williams said.
Williams credits Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. with helping him turn around his life.
Branstad held a public bill-signing to offer what supporters say is a "second chance" for Iowans. Under the provisions of the new law, minor offenses committed by juveniles will be kept confidential by the courts. Supporters said in the past previous infractions made it more difficult for people as adults to find gainful employment.
"Having the juvenile records public really haunted people," Branstad told Channel 13 news. "We want to help people be rehabilitated and to be able to get their life back in order and become productive citizens."
Williams and others were at the statehouse Wednesday to see the officially signing of this new law. Now Williams and others’ past problems won’t hold them back.
“I appreciate that we Iowans say, let's take a look at this again,” said Sharon Brown, mother of a juvenile offender. “This will make a difference to our youth -- all our youth."
Branstad knows some will think of those offenders who went in and out of courthouses and they'll think all their problems and issues will just go away."
“I think if you have somebody who is a habitual offender as juvenile that can be public. So there's still opportunity to make it public, but it won't be every little minor offense that occurs as a juvenile."
Williams is now 21 and no longer a juvenile and no longer that troublemaking teen.
“I grew up. I showed that I wanted to be better myself. I want to be out in society, make big changes, big moves and so on, to college and everything,” he said.
And now with this new law, he'll have a reason to check the want ads.
His big change, his big move may be there, because his minor mistakes of the past are now classified.
Watch Hakeem Williams’ full interview below.
The new law does still give judges discretion to make some juvenile offenses public if it's in the interest of public safety.