Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is sponsoring the Kenneth P. Thompson Begin Again Act, which would expand a federal statute to make more people eligible for expungement of a first-time simple drug possession offense.
The bill eliminates the age requirement and would allow judges to give more low-level drug offenders a second chance.
“Ken Thompson was a groundbreaking district attorney who elevated the integrity and fairness of the criminal justice system in Kings County to unprecedented heights,” Jeffries said. “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.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, meanwhile, has rolled out the Kenneth P. Thompson Civic Justice Corps Act, which would provide grants to conservation corps and community-based organizations that target young adults between the ages of 16 and 25.
The grants would fund services such as educational support and assistance with professional development.
“Brooklyn’s own Ken Thompson was a powerful advocate for justice for all New Yorkers,” Velazquez said. “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 inequality in America.”
A former federal prosecutor who later went into private practice, Thompson was elected as Brooklyn’s first African-American district attorney in 2013. He unseated longtime incumbent Charles Hynes, who had been in the role since 1990.
During his brief tenure, Thompson established a Conviction Review Unit, which vacated or supported the dismissal of the wrongful convictions of 21 people.
Thompson was also known for implementing a policy to not prosecute low-level marijuana possession arrests.
He passed away from cancer in October 2016, and was succeeded by Eric Gonzalez, who served as Thompson’s chief assistant at the time.
In a statement, Lu-Shawn Thompson, the late DA’s widow, called her husband a “man of vision” who believed in the power of second chances and thought that everyone should have the opportunity to overcome mistakes from their past.
“His legacy lives on and extends beyond the border of Brooklyn,” she said. “I know he would be proud to have his name attached to these two important pieces of legislation.”