Hundreds of Wisconsin felons might be able to erase their convictions under a provision in Gov. Jim Doyle’s pending budget bill, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Supporters say it provides a second chance for youthful offenders who have made mistakes, as well as providing a useful tool for prosecutors. Opponents say it lets people off the hook for serious crimes and deprives the public of its fundamental right to know. The provision, which passed a committee 9-6 this week, would expand judges’ authority to expunge criminal convictions.
The law is intended to be used by prosecutors during plea negotiations, once per defendant. It should not be used for crimes such as drunken driving, he said, in which the number of past offenses affects sentencing. Records of crimes would remain accessible to law enforcement and court officials through other means, such as the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council said there are better ways to prevent discrimination than denying access to information.”The whole premise that there’s nothing the State of Wisconsin can do to prevent employment discrimination except prevent the information from being out there, that’s obnoxious,” he said. “Why not try enforcing that law rather than removing information?”