FLINT (WJRT) – (06/25/20) – The Michigan legislature is making progress toward criminal justice reform with a set of expungement bills known as ‘Clean Slate’ legislation.
The package, including HB 4980–4985, was voted out of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Wednesday following testimony from Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.
“We also lose millions in tax revenue every year by locking thousands of qualified workers out of our economy. Clean Slate just makes sense,” Gilchrist said.
If passed, the laws would make it easier for the formerly incarcerated to find jobs, good housing and to contribute overall to society, depending on the offense. Supporters of the bill say people who have paid their debt to society and have turned their life around are too often not given a chance to start again.
“I think people deserve a second chance. Not everybody is in the same boat. Not everybody is thinking the same,” said Aaron Jones.
As a graduate of M.A.D.E. Institute Aaron Jones was able to turn his life around after being incarcerated from age 16 to 31. Through M.A.D.E., a nonprofit organization that provides transitional housing, teaches job readiness, trade skills and more, Jones was able to start a new life. He’s a full time welder and volunteers with M.A.D.E., but Jones says what he really wants is to get his record expunged.
“They’re so attached to that record because…this is what they say who you are,” Jones said.
House Bill 4980 would create an automatic system for expungement unlike the current application process that judges and reform advocates say is underused. A misdemeanor would be expunged seven years after sentencing and up to two felonies could be cleared 10 years after sentencing. Certain crimes, however, are not eligible.
Leon El-Alamin, founder of M.A.D.E. Institute, is among those who have advocated for the reform. He said it’s a step in the right direction, but so many others who have paid their debt to society and made a change are still left out.
Khabir ArRahim is currently in the M.A.D.E. program, and has high praise for the difference it’s making in his life. He is also happy to give back to the neighborhood he grew up in by revitalizing the area and renovating houses that are used as transitional homes for the program.
“I love helping a brother build, and we’re helping the community and giving back,” ArRahim said.