This week, the MI House voted on a Clean Slate bill package and it will soon be brought up in the Senate. The following is a statement from the Detroit Justice Center and Just Leadership USA regarding the bills and what we hope to see when the bill package goes through the Senate.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Advocates applaud expungement victory in the House, urge Senate to expand Clean Slate
Detroit, MI – On November 5, 2019, the Michigan House passed a bill package expanding expungement eligibility and, in some cases, making the expungement process automatic.
The Detroit Justice Center, JustLeadershipUSA, and our partners have worked tirelessly to introduce legislation that would begin to right the ship of nearly six decades of over-policing and mass criminalization. We have hosted regional convenings, listening sessions, arts and advocacy events, expungement workshops and helped prepare directly impacted people for public testimony. At every step of the process, we’ve consulted with the people who this bill package aims to assist. With those insights, we believe that expanding the range of offenses that qualify for expungement is a positive step forward. It is also clear from our experience that automatic expungement is the only possible way for Michigan’s most over-criminalized populations to take full advantage of the process.
With directly impacted communities leading this campaign, this has been a concentrated effort to expand this legislation in every way possible. As the bill package stands now, we have successfully defeated provisions that would require restitution and other fines and fees to be paid in full before someone’s record could be expunged. Forcing payment of restitution and fines counteracts everything these bills set out to correct. It sets up an immediate obstacle to expungement. When we know that 27.3% of people with records are persistently unemployed, making restitution a priority effectively disintegrates the ability of this legislation to be effective. If we are going to fully reckon with the failings of the current criminal legal system, we must reckon with the ways in which it consistently punishes people with low income.
The Senate bills and the final legislation must expand automatic expungement to include unlimited misdemeanors after five years, and maintain the House bills’ position on restitution. We believe that the Legislature can make big and bold policy statements that reflect community needs and begin to reckon with the need for true transformative justice.
“If this bill package is to impact the communities that have been brutalized by disinvestment and retrenchment of public services and terrorized by over-policing and mass criminalization for decades, it must address automatic set-asides in the most comprehensive form possible. We believe this is the only way this package is just, and reflective of community need.” Megan French-Marcelin, Campaign Director, WORKINGfuture
“Legislation should always reflect the needs of those most impacted by the system. Organizers in our coalition spent months in communities throughout Michigan speaking with individuals living with a criminal record and their families to ensure their voices were heard in this process. For this bill package to truly succeed, we should be pushing for legislation that mirrors the data collected in the listening sessions.” Danielle Dillard, Campaigns and Advocacy Coordinator, Detroit Justice Center
“We have an obligation to the communities most affected by the criminal legal system. This extends beyond seeking out their assistance when creating policy; we must recognize that they have the expertise when it comes to this process. We know that applying for expungement is both extremely difficult to navigate and costly, which is why automatic expungement is so important. With the restrictions in the current bill that limit the type and amount of misdemeanors that are automatically expunged, many people, including many of our clients, will still not be able to benefit from this bill as they should.” Amanda Alexander, Founding Executive Director, Detroit Justice Center