If you have a criminal record, it often follows you through life.
It makes it harder to get hired, rent an apartment, or get into college. If your job application includes a check mark next to “criminal record,” research shows that you are half as likely as other job seekers to get a callback from an employer.
But a growing number of states now consider such a life sentence – well beyond time served – as unjust. Next month, Michigan will begin to selectively and automatically expunge the records of some felons and those convicted of misdemeanors. It joins six other states passing “clean slate” laws making it easier for people to get a fresh start. No, this doesn’t include violent crimes such as murder and rape. And in Michigan there are still waiting periods of up to seven years after prison release before the slate can be wiped.
But in cities like Detroit, where one-third of residents have felony or misdemeanor convictions, Axios reports, expungement can pave the way to better jobs and restored dignity. One study found that on average, wages rise by more than 20% just one year after someone’s record has been cleared.
Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” And this emerging bipartisan trend toward second chances suggests moral progress, and that America may be gradually embracing a higher sense of justice.