STATEMENT: CAP’s Rebecca Vallas Applauds Introduction of Michigan’s Clean Slate Bill

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Michigan Legislature became the fifth state to introduce clean slate legislation to clear criminal records through automation. Part of a package of six bills that would also significantly expand eligibility for expungement of criminal records, Michigan’s bipartisan clean slate legislation would automatically expunge qualifying misdemeanors 10 years after the justice system’s monitoring ends, without requiring the filing of a petition or motion. Following the introduction of the Michigan bill, Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and one of the co-originators of the clean slate policy, released the following statement:

In the digital era, a criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty. Because 9 in 10 employers, 3 in 5 colleges, and 4 in 5 landlords now use background checks to screen applicants’ criminal records, even a minor criminal record can present lifetime barriers to nearly every building block of economic stability—from employment to housing to education, and more. By making it possible for Michiganders to move on with their lives and rejoin the workforce, Michigan’s clean slate legislation will help the state shrink its poverty rate, grow its economy, and save taxpayer dollars through reduced incarceration costs—all while increasing public safety.

I applaud the Michigan Legislature for taking this important step to improve the lives of tens of thousands of Michiganders.

Earlier this year, University of Michigan researchers found that Michiganders who have their records expunged saw their wages go up by more than 20 percent. At the same time, researchers found that the state’s current petition-based expungement process is so onerous that only 6.5 percent of people who qualify for expungement were able to successfully clear their records within five years of becoming eligible. Streamlining and automating the expungement process will enable tens of thousands of Michiganders to move on with their lives and access the second chances they deserve.

The introduction of Michigan’s clean slate legislation comes as momentum for bipartisan, automated record-clearing laws spreads to states across the country. Michigan joins California and Connecticut, which also introduced clean slate bills this year. Pennsylvania was the first state to enact a clean slate law in 2018, and Utah also enacted clean slate legislation earlier this year. Bipartisan federal clean slate legislation was also introduced in Congress in August 2018. Clean slate is based on an idea first published in a 2014 report by the Center for American Progress and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

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