Opinion: Expungement removes barriers for job seekers

Charlie Mahoney
It's hard to get back on your feet with a criminal record hanging over your head.

A criminal record is a huge roadblock to getting a job and living a productive life. For many Michiganians, despite paying their debt to society, it’s very difficult to get back on their feet and live a self-sufficient life with a criminal record hanging over their heads. The expungement process in Michigan is currently far too restrictive, leaving thousands of residents with a long-lasting record that prevents them from living up to their potential.

A University of Michigan Law School study published this year found that people who have their criminal records cleared experience an increase in wages and employment outcomes. On average, wages went up by 25% within two years of expungement. That could be life-changing for someone struggling to make ends meet.

It is a breath of fresh air to see a bipartisan effort underway that would make significant changes to the expungement progress, which could be life-changing for so many in our state. As the state’s workforce development partner, we at Michigan Works! are extremely supportive of the legislation that was recently unveiled in Kalamazoo to expand eligibility for criminal records to be wiped.

State Rep. Leutheuser unveiled the expungement reform plan in Kalamazoo in September.

Michigan Works! Southwest Director Ben Damerow joined legislators and Mayor Bobby Hopewell in Kalamazoo in September as this common-sense plan to remove barriers to employment for reformed offenders was unveiled. Damerow said that this effort is a great example of putting the needs of Michiganians ahead of politics.

This legislation would open up many doors for ex-offenders who are eager to contribute in their communities and be productive members of society. The six-bill package would expand the amount of time within which convictions can be set aside and would even put an automatic expungement process in place in certain circumstances.

We want to help people who have made mistakes and turned their lives around get good jobs and go on to become productive members of society. These bills are a common-sense gateway to making that a possible reality for thousands of Michiganians. 

This groundbreaking effort would make Michigan a leader in expungement reform and greatly broaden the pool of skilled workers available for the in-demand jobs that companies in our state desperately need to fill. Improving Michigan’s expungement process will strengthen our economy and our communities while giving a second chance to those who deserve it.

As Michigan’s workforce development partner, we are excited about this legislation that would truly change the trajectory of people’s lives. The plan was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Oct. 29 and now awaits consideration by the full House. Once this legislation is approved, Michigan Works! organizations stand ready to help these deserving individuals rebuild their lives, providing the access and support they need to attain a positive career and a successful future. 

Charlie Mahoney chairs the Michigan Works! Association Board.