Jason Jakubowski

Jakubowski

Our governor is pledging to clear marijuana-related convictions, but the problem with criminal convictions goes beyond marijuana. Criminal records can make us less safe by preventing people from finding housing and legal employment. I applaud our representatives’ efforts to move legislation that would expand criminal record clearance.

We can maximize the positive impact of this legislation by expanding eligibility and automating the process for certain convictions.

Research from the University of Michigan shows the benefits to public safety of expanding eligibility for expunging or “setting aside” a conviction. While 28 percent of Michiganders recidivate within three years, 4.2 percent of Michiganders who receive a set-aside recidivate within five years. Those who received expungements for violent offenses recidivate at 0.6 percent.

By preventing recidivism, we begin to address the biggest concern of crime survivors: ensuring the person who hurt them doesn’t hurt anyone else. Expungement makes us safer, reduces crime and addresses victims’ needs.

Legislation should include automatic expungement for misdemeanor convictions. Today, only 6.5 percent of people who are eligible pursue getting their record set aside. The process is often too expensive or challenging. Automatic expungement maximizes benefits to our communities.

Public safety isn’t only about enforcing the law, but preventing crime by guiding people onto a productive path. As a police officer, I interacted with people who made mistakes that too often led to a criminal record that followed them for the rest of their lives.

Criminal records haunt people as they leave jail or prison with no resources or transportation. It hinders them in seeking education, employment and housing. It holds them back from finding legal employment to support their family and pay victims. This is true even when people turn their lives around.

Those who succeed after release do so in spite of barriers, not because of them.

People say “They committed a crime. Why should we allow offenders to get their lives back?”

Everyone wins with Clean Slate legislation.

Allowing people with convictions to seek employment prevents them from returning to crime out of desperation or to make ends meet. It also means more restitution — which depends on an offender’s ability to pay — is collected for victims. If Michiganders can move past their conviction having completed their sentence, they can get what they need to turn their lives around — not returning to crime and getting it from victims.

There is also no public safety justification for complicating the expungement process. If people lived for five years without committing a subsequent crime, they are no more likely to re-offend than the general public. Some prosecutors ask for the power to veto individual set-asides, but this is unnecessary — it wastes prosecutors’ valuable time.

We need to be smart about crime and focus our resources on the most serious threats to public safety while allowing people reentering society to become productive community members.

The mark of conviction shouldn’t be a life sentence. We must enact legislation that recognizes when people moved past their mistakes and take positive steps forward.

Everyone wins with Clean Slate legislation.

About the author: Jason Jakubowski served for 16 years as a police officer with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety.

He is a speaker for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit group of police, prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials working to improve the criminal justice system.

About the author: Jason Jakubowski served for 16 years as a police officer with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety. He is a speaker for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit group of police, prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials working to improve the criminal justice system.

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