This year, University of Michigan Professors Sonja B. Starr and J.J. Prescott released the first-ever broad-based empirical study of what happens when state law limits the public’s access to criminal records. The reason? To see how expungement might affect a person’s future, either positively or negatively. And the results are significant.
Why this study was different from any done before now:
The definition of the word “empirical” is “to be based on observation or experience, rather than theory or logic.” Which is why this study is the first of its kind. As the researchers themselves explained, “Despite the considerable legislative ferment and the excitement that surrounds ‘clean slate’ initiatives in the civil rights and criminal justice reform worlds, what has been missing from the debate is hard evidence about the effects and true potential of conviction expungement laws.” And that’s exactly what they brought to the table – hard evidence.
What were the results of the study?
The study revealed a number of interesting things about how expungement would affect people with criminal records in Michigan. Specifically, there were three key findings:
- Only 6.5% of those who are eligible to apply for expungement successfully complete Michigan’s application process within five years of becoming eligible.
- People whose records are expunged by the state have extremely low recidivism rates that are similar to those of the general population.
- Those with expunged records experience a wage increase of about 25% within two years, usually because those who were formerly unemployed find jobs, and those will low paying jobs are able to find work with better and steadier wage brackets.
In summary, those who have criminal records sealed or wiped tend to benefit financially from expungement, as do their families and communities. No shock there, right? Most of us understand that having a criminal record is a serious obstacle for the offender.
Very few people eligible for expungement make use of it in Michigan
One interesting piece of information uncovered by the study, is the fact that only a very small percentage of the people who are eligible to apply for expungement in Michigan actually make use of that option. Why? Apparently because they either simply don’t apply for it, or because when they do apply, their applications are denied. These are the main six reasons revealed by the study:
- People don’t know enough about the expungement process, and don’t know where to go to get that information; however, that information has been available online for a long time including on the web site of The Kronzek Firm,
- The time involved and general hassle of the process is off-putting, but then again, so are the consequences of not going through the process,
- The cost involved, which includes hiring an attorney, combined with court costs, transportation costs and possible lost wages while attending court hearings. On the other hand, not going through the process is pretty darn expensive too;
- Fear and mistrust of the criminal justice system which is a consequence of being an offender;
- No access to a skilled attorney to provide advice, help and counsel,
- Lack of motivation to address the issue of a criminal conviction.
Expungement is available in Michigan. Do you need help?
Join us next time to look at some of the reasons why people DO NOT want new, easier expungement laws passed in Michigan, and what the process will look like if those bills get signed into law. Until then, if you or a loved one have been living with a criminal conviction on your record, and you’re ready to find out if you’re eligible for expungement, please download our expungement information form.
By filling it out and submitting it, you’ll be equipping our hard-working criminal defense attorneys to determine whether or not you are eligible for a petition for expungement in Michigan. From there, we can assist you throughout the process and ensure that your petition is always correct, you have the documentation you need, and that everything is filed correctly with the court. It may seem like a lot, but it’s one of the best investments in your future you could possibly make!