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January 1, 13

NEWS / Indiana legislature considers bill to expunge criminal records

The Indiana House of Representatives will decide on a bill that would erase the criminal records of ex-convicts if they show that they stayed out of trouble for at least five years after leaving prison. The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee agreed to present it for a vote before the full House after hearing testimonies from former felons on Wednesday. Many of these witnesses said it was difficult for them to find a job and access other opportunities denied to people with a criminal past, Mt. Vernon Registrar-News reports.

“My question is: When do you stop being an ex-con?” remarked 66-year old Bob Wilson, who has not had any convictions since he left prison in 1973 but is still listed as a former felon for a robbery he committed when he was 19. “I’ve been out for 40 years and done everything expected of me.”

Wilson’s sentiments were echoed by a number of other witnesses. Some officials also came out to support the measure, noting that the stigma of being a convict barred many from getting a proper job.

“It deteriorates the community — structurally, economically, emotionally and socially,” Angela Smith, the Greater Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s director of public policy said. “For all of those reasons, it’s important for those who’ve remedied themselves and are on the right path, to give them opportunity to get back into the workforce, get trained and contribute to the community.”

Andrew Cullen, the legislative liaison for the Indiana Public Defender Council, noted that the bill would reduce recidivism, as it would give former convicts hope that they would get on equal footing with other citizens if they follow the rules.

Cullen, as well as some other supporters of the bill, stressed that the residents of some other states had an unfair advantage over ex-cons in Indiana because their criminal histories get expunged after a certain period of time.

Under the current legislation, people with long-ago and low-level convictions (misdemeanors and class D felonies) could ask the court to seal the record and prevent the public from viewing their criminal past. The new bill, authored by Republican state Representative Jud McMillin, would allow judges to delete class B and class C convictions from a person’s record. However, there are a number of limitations: five years must pass after a sentence is completed, and the person seeking exoneration must not have any convictions during that period. Also, sex and violent crimes cannot be removed from a criminal record.

Tags: criminal records, criminal record,


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