The Michigan House of Representatives voted last week to pass a package of bills that gives new hope to people with criminal records. The proposed legislation, if enacted, would expand expungement eligibility for thousands of Michiganders, who would have a better chance at rebuilding their lives after serving time in prison. Specifically, this package of bill will automatically expunge up to two felony or four misdemeanor records for certain crimes if a person also has no additional records in a 10 year period.

Updating Michigan’s expungement laws is long overdue. For years, these laws have punished people well after they served their time by preventing them from getting work, housing, funding for higher education, and custody of their children. These practices also disproportionately affect people of color and waste taxpayer dollars.

This package of bills proposes overhauling the expungement process, which currently is complicated, costly and can take years for a person to get their record cleared. In fact, according to a 2019 study, only 6.5% of people eligible for expungement in Michigan actually applied for it.   Right now, our laws limit the number of offenses a person can apply to have expunged. These conditions also do not consider how much time has passed since the person was sentenced or if multiple charges were based on a single crime.

This legislation proposes automatic expungement, which will eliminate the current cumbersome and costly process, and is vital to reforming our criminal legal system. It also will expunge criminal convictions related to marijuana use, which became legal in the state in 2019. Most importantly, it helps returning citizens to get back on their feet and reintegrate into their communities. We urge the Michigan Senate to follow the House of Representatives and commit to giving people a second chance by passing this critical legislation.

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