On January 16, 2020, 195 Muskegon County residents entered the doors at our Muskegon Service Center. Even though some had to wait two hours to be seen, the general attitude was of hope and appreciation. Why? Because they were there to apply for an expungement—or have a criminal conviction(s) removed from their record.
Expungement clinics are designed to remove some of the barriers and help more individuals prepare to file a petition with the court system. About 30-40 individuals left the Muskegon clinic knowing they were eligible for expungement and with completed paperwork, ready to file with the court.
“People were grateful for the opportunity to understand their records and the free legal assistance to guide them on where to go next.” -Kathy Rohlman, talent solutions manager for West Michigan Works! in Muskegon Count
An Untapped Talent Pool
Only 504 of over 31,000 employers in West Michigan actively hire individuals with a criminal record, resulting in a high unemployment rate for these individuals. In fact, nearly half of the clinic’s attendees were unemployed at the time of registration.
Unemployment is at historical lows and employers are desperate for workers, yet a whole pool of talent is being denied work due to a prior conviction. New proposed legislation, referred to as the Clean Slate legislation, hopes to change that. The Clean Slate legislation will make even more individuals eligible for expungement in Michigan and reduce the barriers of successfully completing the petition process.
If the bills are enacted into law, they would:
- Automatically expunge certain felony offenses 10 years after the completion of sentences and seven years after completion of sentences for misdemeanors This excludes convictions for drunk driving, criminal sexual conduct and assault.
- Shorten the time before individuals can file a request for expungement to between three and seven years after completion of their sentence, depending on the severity and number of convictions.
- Extend expungement opportunities to low-level driving offenses and marijuana charges that are no longer crimes under Michigan law.
Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) cosponsored the Clean Slate legislation and understands how making expungement more accessible will benefit the state. “Not only is the plan going to help struggling people improve their lives, it will strengthen our economy by making thousands of ex-offenders more employable at a time when businesses across Michigan are having trouble finding skilled workers,” said O’Malley.