Healthy, Safe & Thriving Communities
Everyone should have a safe and healthy community to call home. We all want to live in a place where everyone can find a job with a fair wage and secure safe and affordable housing. But for hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents, this simple dream is out of reach.
All of us value a second chance when we’re given one. But for people who have a criminal record, that second chance often seems elusive. They were told they had to pay their debt to society – with the implication that once that debt is paid, their punishment would be over. But after they are released from jail, prison or probation, many of them continue to pay for their mistakes. Many landlords won’t rent apartment or homes to them, and many employers refuse to even look at a job application after a job seeker checks a box acknowledging that they have a criminal record. As a result, many people continue to pay for their mistakes for decades — even if they never had another run-in with the law.
While there is a process to have a criminal record cleared in Michigan, it’s not available to everyone —only someone with a limited criminal record (one felony or two misdemeanors) and who is five years from the end of their sentence can apply. Also, many offenses are excluded from expungement, including traffic offenses.
Even people who do qualify for an expungement face significant challenges. The process of clearing a criminal record takes months, and involves complex eligibility rules, fees, fingerprinting, appearing before a judge, and facing potential challenges from prosecutors and crime survivors. That’s why nearly 95 percent of people eligible for expungement don’t even apply for it.
If more people can get their criminal records expunged, more people will have the opportunity to find good jobs and secure safe and affordable housing. This will help strengthen families, communities, local economies across the state, and promote public safety.
Expungement: The elimination of arrests and convictions from a person’s public criminal record. Strictly speaking, when a record is expunged, a criminal past is excluded from view from everyone. However, in Michigan, “expungement” means that law enforcement and the courts can continue to see someone’s criminal history, while employers, landlords and other members of the general public cannot (see “record sealing”).
Record Sealing: Setting aside or sealing a criminal record so that it is hidden from view of the general public, but still visible to law enforcement and the courts.
It’s time for a Clean Slate for Michigan
The Michigan Clean Slate initiative will make criminal record expungements automatic for all people who are eligible for them. Under current rules, that means that people who have no more than one felony or two misdemeanors would see their records expunged after seven years of no criminal violations.
That’s good — but not good enough. We are seeking to expand eligibility for expungement as well.
Tens of thousands of Michiganders would automatically receive expungements if Clean Slate legislation is passed. That means tens of thousands more people can find meaningful work, provide for their families, find a home and build a future in their community. And that’s something positive for everyone.
Here are some reasons that special segments of our community are supporting Clean Slate legislation:
Business leaders across the state are competing for good workers. At a time when Michigan’s unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been in about two decades, there is a real shortage of available workers, and people with good skills who are ready to work without extra training are highly sought after. However, the presence of a criminal record scares away many hiring managers without even giving some highly talented and skilled workers a chance — even if the record reflects things that happened 20 or more years ago without any convictions since then. Passing Clean Slate legislation would remove those barriers to employment and bring more skilled workers into the labor market, boosting our state’s economy and making Michigan stronger for everyone. Expanded access to employment will also promote public safety by reducing recidivism — even though eligible people are a low recidivism group to begin with.
Redemption and restoration are core values for many faith traditions. But all too often, landlords and hiring managers refuse to give people a second chance because of a criminal record of things that happened decades ago. This turns redemption into an abstract idea rather than a reality for too many Michiganders who have a history of incarceration in jail or prison or time spent on probation. We can change that. Clean Slate will shield old criminal records from public view, so that people who have done their time and paid their debt to society can get a fresh start and become productive members of society again.
People with a Criminal Record
All of us have made mistakes in our lives, and we can all understand the importance of getting a second chance. But for people whose mistakes resulted in an arrest, criminal charges or incarceration, those opportunity can seem elusive. In Michigan, there are 787 state laws that limit people with a criminal record for getting a job, safe place to live, or a good education. Studies show that people who have kept their criminal records clear for several years after serving a sentence are extremely unlikely to re-offend, but the policies of many employers and landlords continue to punish them for decades. People with a criminal record are coming forward to show that they are valued co-workers, neighbors and members of their communities who are worthy of a second chance.
Survivors of Crime
People who have survived a crime don’t want endless retribution. Studies show that what they want more than anything is understanding, rehabilitation and restoration. According to the Alliance for Safety and Justice’s 2018 Michigan Crime Survivor Survey, nearly two-thirds of Michigan crime survivors favored shorter prison sentences and more funding for prevention and rehabilitation programs. Eighty percent of survivors wanted prosecutors to reduce local crime by focusing on rehabilitation, even if it meant fewer prison sentences. So crime survivors are supporting Clean Slate because it will reduce recidivism and support rehabilitation and restoration.
Clean Slate is common-sense legislation, but seeing it passed into law will require the combined efforts of legislators, the business and faith communities, criminal justice reformers and you. Get informed about the issues and speak out about the need for second chances in Michigan.
Safe & Just Michigan will be scheduling special events to support the passage of Clean Slate legislation. Check our events page to see if any upcoming events will be occurring near you.
Talk with your legislators about your support of Clean Slate and second chances in Michigan. Tell them you want them to support reforms that will enable people with criminal records to become people who build up their communities and make them stronger.
Sign up for our newsletter. We will keep you up-to-date about the Clean Slate effort and other criminal justice reforms in Michigan.
Clean Slate Toolkit
After months of working with our partner organizations, gathering feedback from community members like you and meeting with lawmakers, Clean Slate legislation was introduced to the Michigan Legislature on September 9, 2019.
We are proud that this effort has resulted in a six-bill package of legislation that will expand the number of people who qualify for an expungement of their criminal record and automate those expungements. This legislation has bipartisan support, and we believe it will move quickly through the Legislature this year.
But in order to do so, we need your help.
We are asking you to become familiar with the legislation and make your voice be heard. Please use the below Clean Slate toolkit documents to get your voice out!
Download>> Get to Know Clean Slate: Talking Points
Download>> Social media strategy for Clean Slate
Download>> Call your legislator about Clean Slate
Download>> Write to your legislator about Clean Slate
Our blog series on expungement in Michigan:
- Clearing records paves the way to jobs, housing, and education
- A brief history of expungement in Michigan
- Clean Slate in Penn state
- Current reforms: Expanding the scope of expungement in Michigan
- Proposals to reform the expungement process
Download>> Our Clean Slate fact sheet
Download>> JustLeadershipUSA’s Clean Slate fact sheet
Visit>> Collateral Consequences Resource Center: Data analysis shows expungement leads to higher employment and wages, lower crime, but Michigan’s expungement process discourages 95 percent of eligible recipients from applying
Download>> The Free-Market Case for a Clean Slate