To get opposing lawmakers on the same page is a daunting, if not impossible, path in the current political climate. However, both sides are coming together to make life easier for a specific subset of the population.
Serving a criminal sentence and being released back into the populace does not equate to freedom. In reality, formerly incarcerated people suffer under a different type of punishment that comes with a criminal record. Being “handcuffed” continues.
A fresh start
Expungement of a crime represents a second chance for once-convicted criminals to start over with a clean slate. Instead of a black mark, they receive a clean slate to pursue employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Many see it as improving the financial wherewithal of local economies and easing the reliance on social services.
Once a significant uphill climb, many states and jurisdictions throughout the U.S. are easing the process of expunging and sealing criminal records. The past five years saw states pass bills that offered automatic expungement or sealing upon eligibility.
At least 26 states and the District of Columbia have an automatic system already in place or in the works. New York, Maryland, Louisiana, and Minnesota have already passed bills. Ohio and Michigan will have their laws going into effect later this year.
Upon the announcement, submitted applications skyrocketed, resulting in a significant backlog throughout the country. With the documents also comes a fee, representing a potential financial burden for applicants. In addition, prosecutors and legislators are expressing concerns over future criminal activity following formal expungement and whether past crimes would still count.
For some, criminal activity is a hard habit to break. For others, expungement can provide ex-convicts a second chance, if not a new lease on life.