Detroit, MI – Over the last fourteen months, our organizations have demanded that state legislators listen to the voices of people most impacted by mass criminalization and conviction records as they consider expanding expungement and automating the process for certain offenses. We have testified in hearings, met with legislators, and submitted statements. In November of 2019, the House passed bill package 4980-85, which is currently waiting to be heard by the Senate. We urge the Senate Judiciary to expedite hearings on House Bill package 4980-85 and to expand automated expungement to all misdemeanor convictions.
Michiganders face more than 700 laws and statutes that exclude them from access to basic necessities — such as housing, employment and education — as a result of a conviction. Automatic expungement is an important factor because while current law excludes most Michiganders with conviction histories, only 6.5 percent of eligible residents take advantage of the law as a result of the complicated, traumatic, and costly expungement application process currently in place.
Let us be clear: HB 4980-85 will expand access to expungement in Michigan, but it does not go far enough. Without eradicating the thousands of barriers that keep people locked out of society, people will still be penalized for convictions that are ten, twenty, and sometimes thirty years old. While expungement legislation is one meaningful way of course correcting six decades of tough-on-crime policy that has disproportionately targeted working-class and Black and brown communities, it must be applied as broadly as possible if it is to undo the harms wrought by over-policing and mass criminalization. We believe the current draft of the bill could go further in ensuring that no conviction ends up being a life sentence.
We stand behind the community-driven platform, which includes automating set-asides for all misdemeanor convictions after five years (including traffic offenses) and expunging felonies through a matrix based on seriousness. Everyone in Michigan deserves access to jobs, housing, and healing.